Do you have weeds in your friendship garden? Perhaps yes, perhaps no; however, in the midst of our multi-tasking we can often overlook them until they begin to dominate. Since female companionship counters so many of the negative aspects of life, keeps you healthy, and may even add years to your life, it is incredibly important to consistently examine the garden and weed it, if necessary. This not only helps to modify our own “weedy” behavior but also allows us to graciously assist our friends in understanding their destructive effects on the relationship (Proverbs 27:17; 31:28-29).
The most important element in the fight against weeds is to promote the best environment possible for the growth of desirable plants. Improper watering or fertilization, soil compaction, insect damage, disease, poor drainage, and improper sunlight are all conditions that increase the potential for weed development.1 What is true of the care and maintenance of gardens is equally true in the nurturing of your friendships; relational weeds in the Friendship Garden have the potential of stunting or completely stopping growth. The book of John teaches that
· Loving others is a visual illustration of our discipleship (13:34-35).
· Christians exemplify that they are friends with Christ when they love one another (15:14).
· Christians are to love one another as Christ loved them (15:12).
· Loving one another is a command, not a suggestion, for Christians (15:17).
A variety of weeds can hinder the flourishing of love in the Friendship Garden including:
The Turned-Head Weed
The Turned –Head Weed grows in one direction while its head faces the opposite direction. It might be called the "if only" weed because it lives on memories of other friendships and experiences. It damages existing relationships by its continual reference to other, "more prosperous" relationships or possessing unrealistic expectations of current ones. This weed is best eradicated by thanking God for precious memories and concentrating on nurturing the current relationships He provides (Ephesians 5:20; Philippians 3:13; 1 Thessalonians 5:18).
The I- Me Weed
The I- Me Weed grows to enormous heights until nothing else in the garden can be seen; it is a real love-choker, often turning friendships into thickets of fighting and competition. The presence of this weed creates an environment directly opposite of the agape love commanded by God that challenges you to accept your friend exactly as she is, forgives and forgets unintentional slights, places no demands on the friendship, and allows the will rather than the emotions to control it. Another name for selfishness, the I- Me Weed quickly establishes itself as the center of the Friendship Garden and demands to be in control. It is most effectively eradicated by sowing the Our-We seed in the Friendship Garden (Proverbs 13:10; Galatians 5:15, 19-25; Philippians 2:3; James 3:16).
The Clam-up Weed
The Clam-up Weed is one of the most difficult to eradicate because when one friend "clams up" it is almost impossible to correct the situation; should this weed invade, the silence that falls over the Friendship Garden is like the silence of a tomb. The residual effect of this weed is often a suppression of one’s feelings that may eventually erupt in an explosion; to eradicate, communicate frequently and temper the tone, choice, and number of your words. Should disagreements arise, refuse to remain angry and be willing to admit your contribution to the conflict (Proverbs, 25:11, 26:20, 31: 26; Ephesians 4:15, 25-32).
The Wandering Affection Weed
The Wandering Affection Weed is small, ugly, and has sharp leaves and roots that cut the roots of love, under the surface, out of sight, so a relationship does not know what is happening until it is too late. This weed seeks to cultivate a new relationship by destroying an existing one. The Wandering Affection Weed whispers slanderous comments about existing friends, suggests that she can best fulfill your friendship needs, and insinuates that it is permissible to abort a long-established friendship for a new one with her. While it is important to pursue new friendships, it is not appropriate for you to undermine deeply rooted friendship to do so. Eradication of the Wandering Affection Weed includes refusing to discredit an existing friendship, purposing to "love at all times," seeking to bear your friend’s burdens, doing things which are particularly pleasing to her, and concentrating on her positive qualities rather than her weaknesses (Psalm 101:5; Proverbs 6:19, 17:17; Galatians 6:2, 10; Philippians 4:8, 9).
The I Am Always Right Weed
Standing stiff and erect in the Friendship Garden, The I Am Always Right Weed offers a sharp, immediate response to anything she disagrees with; a pro at conflict, it is amazing that so many ugly words can spew forth from her lips if she is provoked. When she assumes this stance engaging in discussion with her is futile since she is always right. Eradication of the I Am Always Right Weed requires prayer on your part so that the words of your mouth and the meditations of your heart are acceptable to the Lord. Two ways to remove this weed from your friendship garden are:
· Filling your mind with God’s Word so that your responses are His responses.
· Being willing to graciously and gently speak the truth in love so as to insure you are not providing ammunition that keeps a conflict in momentum (Psalm 19:14, 39:1, 49:3, 119:11; Proverbs 4:23-24, 10:20, 12:18, 15:2, 18:21, 21:23, 23:7, 25:21, 31:26; Matthew 12:33-37; Luke 6:45; Ephesians 4:14; Colossians 3:16; James 1:27-28, 3:6-10).
The I Call You When I Need You Weed
The I Call You When I Need You Weed lies dormant for long periods and then suddenly appears. Generating from the consumer mind-set of the twenty-first century, the I Call You When I Need You Weed extracts from the friendship what she desires then allows it to lay latent until another need arises. As with the I- Me Weed, selfishness is the primary source of the I Call You When I Need You Weed. Eradication of this weed includes choosing to love your friend as yourself, being more concerned about her needs than yours, and praying for a heart that desires to honor others (Leviticus 19:18; Mathew 5:43; Mark 12:33; Romans 2:6-8, 12:10, 13:7; Philippians 2:3-4; Hebrews 13:1; 2 Peter 1:7-11).
Regardless of the appearance of the surface area of the weeds, all generate from the same taproot—pride, the first of the six things that the Lord hates (Proverbs 6:1). Pride cultivates disharmony in the Friendship Garden while humility, the opposite of pride, generates an atmosphere of peace and harmony (Colossians 3:12-17). The most effective time to eradicate weeds in the Friendship Garden is when they are young, tender, and actively growing—and you can only do this in the Lord’s strength. As James 4:6, the spiritual weed killer, is applied to the invading weeds, your Friendship Garden will produce spectacular bouquets!
The Lord pleads in John 17:20-21, “I do not pray for these alone, but also for those who will believe in Me through their word; that they all may be one, as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You; that they also may be one in Us, that the world may believe that You sent me.” Are you quick to eradicate weeds from your Friendship Garden so that the watching world observes the love of God in your friendships?