FamilyLife Today®

Missing: Friendship: Jared and Becky Wilson

with Jared And Becky Wilson | February 13, 2024
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When did it become so hard to know how to do friendship with the people around us, despite all the options we have to connect? And how are we supposed to feel that close to a holy, perfect, and invisible God? Author Jared Wilson and his wife Becky believe friendships are unmissable--and they've got ideas on where to start.

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  • About the Guest

When did it become so hard to know how to do friendship? Jared and Becky Wilson emphasize friendship’s importance, sharing ideas on ways to start.

Missing: Friendship: Jared and Becky Wilson

With Jared And Becky Wilson
|
February 13, 2024
| Download Transcript PDF

Dave: I saw a study—boy, it’s been a decade—about American men. Nine out of ten American men cannot name one true friend.

Ann: Would you say that’s true?

Dave: Yes, I would. I’ve seen that. I mean we have a lot of friends, but they’re not really friends. I mean, they’re acquaintances—

Ann: —they’re acquaintances.

Dave: —they’re work buddies, work out buddies, people at church. But in terms of a pretty close friendship like you had when you were ten or eleven? Where you want to hang every second with your best buddy. Men don’t do that well. Do women?

Ann: I think women are better than men. I think we’re probably lonelier than we have been, especially since the pandemic, but I do think there’s a crisis going on in our whole country with an epidemic of loneliness.

Dave: Well, we’re going to solve it today.

Shelby: Welcome to FamilyLife Today, where we want to help you pursue the relationships that matter most. I’m Shelby Abbott, and your hosts are Dave and Ann Wilson. You can find us at FamilyLifeToday.com.

This is FamilyLife Today!

Dave: We’ve got Jared C. Wilson in the studio. He wrote a book about Jesus being our friend. Jared, welcome back.

Jared: Thanks, Dave. Thank you, Ann.

Dave:  Let me just say the title: Friendship with the Friend of Sinners: The Remarkable Possibility of Closeness with Christ. We’ve already talked a little bit about it.

Are you that guy? Do you have close friends?

Jared: I do.

Dave: Do you?

Jared: I feel very privileged and blessed that I do. This is not a strict study or research, but I posted on social media a couple years ago. I wanted to know in particular—and this is as I was preparing to write the book and beginning to write the book—how many folks could say that they were still friends with someone they knew in high school (that they were friends with in high school), twenty years later? The vast majority of people said, “maybe connected with them on Facebook™ or something, but not friends.” So, their best friend in high school is not their best friend today.

I’m fortunate. I’m very close with my best friend from high school.

Ann: Wow.

Jared: We see each other probably twice a year now, and there’s a circle of friends that I started connecting with in high school and early college that, now, at 48 years of age, we try to see each other once a year, sometimes twice a year. But that’s a rarity, I’ve discovered. The possibility of friendship period is very fraught. You mention men, Dave. There’s been some study about the decline of the kind of fraternal organizations and social networks. I think it was Robert Putnam who did—

Dave: —bowling?

Jared: —he’s a sociologist who did—Bowling Alone. [Bowling Alone: The Collapse and Revival of American Community]

Dave: Yes.

Jared: He talks about the decline in bowling leagues and things like that. People are now bowling alone. I think maybe there’s some desire that’s changing that but, yes, for a long period of time, I think we’ve gotten very good at building an introverted culture with the illusion of extroversion because of the social internet and everything else. It has complicated our ability to be good friends with people. Even when we do connect, sometimes we don’t know how to relate anymore because it’s been so long.

Ann: Jared, you're a pastor, you’re a professor, you’re a teacher. I mean, you’re a communicator, author. You’re around a lot of men. Do you think what Dave said—do you think that is correct, that men don’t have as many close friendships as women?

Jared: I do. I think part of it—in the circles I run in, there’s a couple of things that I think take place. I interact a lot with young men who are training for ministry or at least some kind of academic training, theologically, and that sort of thing.

There’s always the desire, even if it’s not expressed, to impress, to look like the smartest guy in the room, to have it all together. Whether it’s in a church circle, “I need to show myself as being spiritual or theological. I want to be the guy up in front preaching or teaching or leading in some way.” There’s a jockeying for position sometimes. Or just, “I can’t be real because then you’ll see me as less than impressive, so I don’t want to do that.”

I think, on the academic side of things, too, we have men who spend a lot of time in their head. They’re in a lot of books. They’re studying a lot. They’re learning a lot. They have a high IQ, perhaps, but not a very high EQ. Very often, there’s an emotional intelligence that sometimes they lack. [Emotional intelligence, otherwise known as emotional quotient or EQ]

I see it as my job—I direct a residency at my church, for young men training for pastoral ministry, called the Pastoral Training Center. I’m not trying to replicate seminary. I love seminary. I’m employed by a seminary. I see seminary’s job as to put the brain in the scarecrow and the residency I direct is to put the heart in the tin man.

Ann: That’s good. [Laughter]

Jared: We’re after spiritual formation. I want them to come out, yes, smart; yes, better preachers, etc. But I want them to come out more human, also; to be able to relate to normal people, because when they leave the seminary bubble, more often than not, they are going to be in churches that are outside of that world, where they have to interact with real people, counsel real people, do premarital work with real people, and pastor real people. You have to learn how to be a real person sometimes.

Dave: Do you think the pandemic has, in some ways, isolated us?

Jared: Yes.

Dave: Obviously, we were in our homes then. But now, after, do you think that experience has created a sort of a longing in us to say, “I want to be around people. I need to be around people”? Even though it doesn’t seem like we are doing it. [Laughter]

Jared: Right.

Dave: Is there something in us saying, “I miss that”?

Jared: Yes. We miss something. I think it may be just rooted in the incarnation of God, that He came and dwelt among us, tabernacled among us. [John 1:14] I think if the pandemic was good for anything—it was terrible for a million different reasons; if it was good for anything—it may be just what you described. It took the gloss off of the virtual reality for us. It gave us a Zoom™ fatigue. It gave us a virtual fatigue. It helped us to see, “Oh, this may be a helpful tool, but this can’t be reality. This can’t be the normal course of life.” We actually miss out on a lot.

Even if I’m talking to you over the computer, it’s not quite the same as being across a table from each other and seeing the facial expressions in 4D; actually, being in the same space together. There’s just an intangibleness about that tangibility that you can’t replace if you’re on a screen looking at each other. It just can’t be mediated that way.

Of course, the larger problem is our whole lives are mediated through screens, it seems like. It becomes the burden of trying to look a certain way, to have an “Instagrammable” life of some kind, which, of course, over time, begins to affect me because I feel that I’ve got to live up to that. We’re seeing the effects on adolescents, particularly adolescent females, but I think adolescent males, as well. We’re beginning to see the impact of mediating our life on a screen. It’s having all kinds of mental health [impacts] on us.

Ann: And it goes totally contrary to your Chapter 4: “On the Unsucking of Your Gut.” 

Dave: Yes, you used that phrase today.

Ann: You said it! But it’s also Jesus, the “Comforter” Friend. So, instead of in social media, where we are trying to create this image, you’re saying, “No, Jesus comes in, and you’re with Him. You undo your belt, and you say, ‘This is who I am, Lord. This is all I am’.” And you say He’s the Comforter Friend. What does that mean that He is the Comforter?

Jared: Well, I want to take folks back to that one home that, when you were a kid, you would always hang out at. Maybe it was your home. Usually in our friend circle there was the one home where you felt, maybe, more at home than in your own house. Either the parents were very welcoming or very gracious. For some folks, it was [that] the parents were never there and that’s why it was very comfortable to be there. [Laughter] Maybe there were nefarious reasons to want to hang out at that house.

You felt like you could just be yourself there. It’s not like school, where you’ve got to be performing. It may not be like your own house, where you have to follow certain rules and look a certain way. You’re welcomed in. You can be yourself. You can be the kind of friend that you are with your buddies. It’s just the place where everyone feels comfortable.

I use that as an illustration to say the interaction we have with Christ is like that. He’s the friend you can always be yourself with. In fact, He doesn’t want you any other way. If you come to sit down at the table in a way to try to impress Him, He’ll stop you because He’s not fooled by that for one second.

You can’t impress Him. First of all, He’s God. You’re not going to do anything and have God say, “That’s really impressive.” [Laughter] “I’ve never seen that before.” That doesn’t exist. The better news is you don’t even have to do that. He doesn’t want that from you. He wants the real you. So, to sit down at the table with Him means you can be yourself, you can let your hair down, unsuck your gut; whatever you want to say.

I think the other illustration I use is I came down to the breakfast table once when I was a teenager and heard a hurtful comment. I didn’t have a shirt on. I was living like it was my house and feeling comfortable until a comment was made about my physique that just instantly made me go, “Oh.” I felt ashamed. I felt embarrassed. I wanted to cover up. That just stuck with me. Even in my own house, I was not approvable because of something I couldn’t even control. It was the way that my sternum is shaped. I couldn’t fix that, but it became, now, a source of embarrassment for me. So, now I have to cover up in my own house. I’ve got to put on something so I don’t make someone else uncomfortable.

So, the illustration I use is, you may not want to show up at the breakfast table with Jesus without a shirt on, but you could. [Laughter] At least spiritually, I can be emotionally naked before Jesus, and He’s not going to shame me. He’s not going to embarrass me.

Dave: He’s the last person you would think you could, because He’s God. So, you want to cover up.

Jared: Yes. Adam and Eve—their first impulse when they realized they were naked and ashamed was to cover up. [Genesis 3:7] They sew fig leaves together; they hide in the bushes. When the Lord comes, He calls them to account. He basically says that this is not going to cut it; you cannot cover yourselves. But He doesn’t say, “Now walk around in your nakedness and shame.”

Dave: Yes.

Jared: He covers them with animal skins. [Genesis 3:21] Jesus will never expose us to shame us. If He exposes us at all, it’s to cover us with the blessing of Himself. I think the animal skins are very telling. It’s a foretaste of His own sacrifice. Adam and Eve brought death into the world, and it was death that’s going to cover them. And that’s a picture of the crucifixion. [Romans 5:12-15] So, He covers us with Himself. That’s the only reason that He would ever bring up our shame. It’s not that He would leave us there, but that He might cover it with His own graciousness.

Dave: You talk about a friend you want to run to.

Jared: Yes.

Dave: That’s your Friend.

Talk about “abide.” You have a chapter: “Jesus the Unhurried Friend.” In John 15, we know as pastors and teachers that’s just a beautiful passage about abiding in Christ and bearing fruit. I’m not sure we always understand what that looks like, so help us out.

Jared: Part of it is just going against the notion of trying to perform for Jesus, that His disposition towards me is based on how I can produce for Him. Even that passage in John 15, we produce fruit based on our abiding in Him not based on our spiritual willpower or sweat equity or something like that.

But it’s also, I think, a comfort for those who feel like, “Hey, not only do I know I can’t produce for Christ, I don’t even feel like I can produce, period. I am in a low spot. I’m in a valley in my life. I’m in the pit.” And where any other person might say, “Come on, pull yourself up by your bootstraps, and let’s get going”; where even our earthly friends might get a little impatient with us anytime we reveal a kind of emotional nakedness to some, it changes the conversation. Sometimes it redefines friendship. Things get real when we get real. We may find out who our real friends are. There may be some who say, “You know what? I can’t stay back here with you. I’m moving on. If you’re not a mover and shaker we’re not going to be friends.”

Jesus isn’t like that. If we’re stuck, He sits down with us. If we just cannot move, He’s not cracking the whip over us saying, “Come on. Let’s get it going.” He will come and actually abide with us, reside with us. He is near to the brokenhearted. He will not despise the contrite in spirit. [Psalm 34:18] That’s the kind of friend Jesus is.

So, if we’ve got to slow down because we’re exhausted; if we’re hobbled; if we pull up with a limp, He's not ten steps ahead. He slows down to walk alongside us. That’s the kind of friend Jesus is. He will not leave us alone.

Ann: Have you guys had friends or someone in your life that you felt totally saw you and loved you? Maybe it’s a spouse, a parent; have you had that?

Dave: Yes.

Ann: Who is that?

Dave: My guys. I’m doing life with—

Jared: —yes.

Dave: —six or seven guys for the last twenty-plus years, and I feel like we all—we’ve gone there!

Ann: Yes.

Jared: Yes.

Dave: We’ve shared all the dirt. We have highs and joys and valleys. I think they see the real, broken, messed up me, and they love me. Do you have that, Jared?

Jared: Yes, the guys I’ve known since high school. We’ve been through so much together. We all knew each other before we were married and had kids, and now, grown kids. We’ve been through deaths together, we’ve been through marital troubles together, we’ve been through the worst that you could see in someone and [we’re] still friends.

I have a friend named David that I met in my church planting days in Nashville, as well, and he’s one of my best friends. There was a time where I was really struggling, and my first thought was: ”I need to talk to David.”—you know? “He could help. He would offer good counsel, and he just needs to know what’s going on with me.” But I didn’t do it, because I didn’t want to be a burden—

Ann: —oh!

Jared: —on him. I thought, I don’t want to be—not like I don’t want to be somebody’s project, but in a way: “I don’t want him to worry about me. Now, I’m adding to his plate. He’s going to have to think about me.” And what actually, eventually, got me to change my mind is that I started to think about David being in my shoes, and if he thought about me the way I was thinking about him.

Dave: Yes.

Jared: If he thought, “I don’t want to bother Jared.” I found out I would be so upset with him. I would think, “Why wouldn’t you? I’d want to pray for you. I’d want to help you if I could. You must not think I’m a very good friend if you wouldn’t trust that.” That’s what actually prompted me to pick up the phone and call him. Of course, it went as I hoped that it would.

Ann: Yes.

Jared: He didn’t treat me like a burden. He didn’t treat me like,” I’ve got little kids. I’ve got a lot to deal with. And now you're going to throw this on me.” No, he was concerned; he prayed for me; he offered me advice. It took me having to work through the thought experiment or, “If you were in my shoes, what kind of friend would I hope he would think I would be.” That’s how we ought to think of others as well.

Ann: That’s what I was going to say. When we have experienced the grace, the love of Jesus, that friendship, I think that gives us the motivation to become that for someone else.

Jared: Yes.

Ann: I totally agree with that.

Dave: The thing I think, as we get older (now we’re grandparents) is friendship, at this season of our life—it’s always been true—has to be super-intentional. If we have free time, we’re going to go help out with the grandkids or be with the grandkids.

Jared: Right, yes.

Ann: Or family, yes.


Dave: It’s going to be more family or go to ball games and watch kids or grandkids. If you don’t put it on the calendar, the natural rhythm of our lives where I’m with the guys more—

Jared: —yes.

Dave: Even playing golf or doing different things is not as natural as it was. So, now, it’s like, “if I’m not intentional about this, or they’re not intentional, we’re going to drift apart.” We’re still friends, and they probably still say, “Dave is one of my best friends,” but we haven’t talked in a month—or two months, or three months. You’ve got to sustain that. I don’t know about women, but I know about men. We can let it drift.

Jared: Yes

Dave: And then we’re two to three months down; and I don’t think you can let it go that long and still be close. Like you said, with God or with a buddy, you’ve got to be in communication. At least one way or another and probably not just texting and email. There’s got to be a voice every once in a while; that you actually talk to somebody and maybe sit in a room together.

Jared: Think about, in the community of the church, for instance. The way we typically do friendship, or attempt friendship, is by orchestrating some kind of event. We’re going to do a thing for two or three hours together. We can still put on the self you want others to see.

Ann: Yes.

Dave: Yes.

Jared: But if you’re doing life-on-life community, which is, “Hey, I’m going to go do something” or “I’m going to be home today. Why don’t you come over?”, now you’ve got sort of an indefinite amount of time where you're actually doing life side by side. They can see the real you.

When my wife invites one of the young ladies over to the house to just hang out, and they're there for six, seven or eight hours during the day while Becky is doing house stuff, and they’re just chatting, that’s discipleship—

Dave: —yes.

Jared: —that’s sharing life together. And then that young lady can see, when I come home: “Okay, what’s the interaction between me and Becky? How are things?” And they see into our real life in that way. 

Dave: Yes.

Jared: And there are things aspirational, and there are things that kind of take the gloss off all the—They may have an idealized version of Christian marriage, or about me and Becky’s marriage, and they actually get to see, “Oh, this is the real thing.”

Dave: Yes.

Jared: “This is what it really looks like.” But that’s how we actually end up being close with each other. We see the real self in each other.

Dave: Yes, and I think—you said it earlier: the “unhurried” Jesus. I think that’s something we should try to emulate in our own life.

Jared: Yes

Dave: We live so hurried; and when we do spend time, even with a close friend, often it’s like, “Are you done yet?”

Jared: Yes.

Dave: “Are we moving on?”

Jared: Checking the phone, checking the watch, yes.

Dave: Yes. I was at a funeral—I think I did the funeral—years ago [for] a guy I didn’t know very well who was in our church. And the open mic thing happened. The theme of the open mic was, “He was never in a hurry.” People were weeping. It was like, “I would bump into him, and I knew he was busy; I knew where he was headed—but he always stopped. He looked at me and listened, and I never felt like I was a bother to him. He was never in a hurry.”

And I thought, “That’s what people thought of Jesus.” You talk about the most important person in the world, with a mission

Jared: —yes.

Ann: —yes!

Dave: —they felt seen because He was fully present and wasn’t running somewhere.

Jared: Yes. There’s a fellow I saw online the other day. I didn’t know him, but he was talking about a friend of mine, and he tweeted something about my friend. He said, “He’s the most interruptible person”—

Dave: —oh wow!

Jared: —"that he’s ever known.” And I thought, “You know? He is a very interruptible person.” I don’t know him on a day-to-day basis like that but, what a thing to be able to say about someone? “I can go to him, and he’s not bothered or frustrated.” It was convicting to me, because I don’t think I’m a very interruptible person.

Dave: Yes!

Jared: When I’m focused on something and somebody brings something else or tries to ask me a question, I’m like, “Ugh, this is the important thing! Not you, the flesh-and-blood person that I should be caring for.”—

Dave: —I mean, think about it—

Jared: —“It’s this project,” or whatever.

Dave: I’m exactly the same way. [Laughter] You know it.

Ann: I am, too.

Dave: Think about what that says to our family.

Jared: Right, exactly.

Dave: Or our spouse or to our kids that, “Dad doesn’t really have (or mom doesn’t really have)—” That’s terrible.

Ann: Yes.

Dave: You know, we need to emulate the One who’s the Friend of sinners.

Jared: Jesus was the most interruptible. The interruptions were the ministry in the life of Christ.

Dave: Yes, yes.

Ann: Oh, guys, now we’re getting really convicting. [Laughter] You know how I know that I don’t have that? It’s because people say, “I know you’re really busy.”

Jared: I know. I hear that all the time, too.

Ann: You do, too?

Jared: Yes.

Ann: Which means, “I know you don’t have time for me,” and so it’s kind of the opposite of what we’re talking about.

Jared: I was going to say, there was a lady I went to visit in the hospital. This was when I was pastoring in Vermont. She was so wide-eyed that I was there. She said, “I can’t believe that you’d come see me.” I said, “Why?” She said, “Because you’re just so busy.” I just said, “Sister, this is what I’m busy doing. This is what my job is. This is what my life is. I want to be here. You are part of the busyness.” It’s not, “Busyness, and you're some sort of interruption to that.”

Ann: That’s good.

Jared: If people in our lives could get that impression from us, that they’re the business that we’re about—

Dave: —yes.

Jared: —I think it would be better.

Dave: A good question to ask your spouse or ask your kids tonight: do you feel like I’m present? Do you think I’m too busy?

Ann: And available?

Dave: Do you feel like I’m fully there for you? Do you want to be my friend? We should be like Jesus, and we run to Him. Are people running to us?

Ann: You talk about Jesus being a “generous” friend. What do you mean by that?

Shelby: We’re going to hear Jared’s answer here in just a second. But first, I’m Shelby Abbot, and you’ve been listening to Dave and Ann Wilson with Jared C. Wilson on FamilyLife Today. Jared’s written a book called Friendship with the Friend of Sinners. This book really helps you to gain insight into building a close, honest, and unconditional relationship with Jesus.

Well, you can get your copy now with any donation that you give to FamilyLife Today. You can go online to FamilyLifeToday.com. Click on the “Donate Now” button at the top of the page; or you can give us a call with your donation at 800-358-6329. Again, that number is 800-“F” as in family, “L” as in life, and then the word, “TODAY.”

And feel free to drop us something in the mail if you would like to. Our address is: 

FamilyLife

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Orlando, Florida 32832

Now, here’s Jared’s answer to Ann’s question about Jesus being a generous friend:

Jared: I think a lot of us sometimes think that in the gospel, I get the forgiveness of sins and then the rest of it is on me to keep things going. That’s how my Christian life was for a number of my years, when I was a younger man. I thought, “Okay, I have the forgiveness of sins, but everything else is on my back to perform.”

In John’s gospel, in John chapter one, he says, “From the fullness of Christ we receive grace upon grace.” [John 1:16] There is an endless fountain of grace that comes from the good news that we receive. So, it's not just the forgiveness of sins. I am justified before God because of what Christ has done. I am justified by faith. [Romans 5:1] But I also receive sanctification through the gospel. The grace of God is empowering my becoming more like Christ. So, I have that gift.

Within justification, I have adoption as a son. He treats me as a co-heir with Christ! I have the same rights as a son because of Jesus. [Romans 8:17] I can boldly approach the throne of grace in my time of need. [Hebrews 4:16] I don’t have to submit a request form to make an appointment. I can just walk in anytime I want because of my adoption. I’m treated as a son.

I have union with Christ. I am seated with Him—I’m seated with Him in the heavenly places. [Ephesians 2:6] Even now, I’m seated there. Present tense. I’m hidden with Christ in God. [Colossians 3:4]

There’s a treasure trove of gifts that we receive that, sometimes, we don’t think about or meditate on. It shows us how generous Jesus is. He's not a one-time giver. He’s an eternal giver of His grace.

Ann: Yes. So good.

Jared: He’s an endless fountain of grace for us.

Dave: It’s interesting; you probably don’t know this, Jared, but one of our themes for this year with FamilyLife is Psalm 34:8: “Taste and see that the Lord is good.” And I’m not kidding! The last couple days talking to you, just listening to Scripture and your vision of Jesus, has given me a sense of, “Man, He is good.”

Jared: That’s a blessing to me, brother.

Dave: And I want to be closer with Him. So, thank you for that, because this is something we’ve been reminding our listeners of.

Jared: Good.

Dave: We get this chance every day to take a look at God in fresh ways. The way you’ve presented Jesus as a friend of sinners, of us, makes us draw in. If you haven’t tasted that recently, taste and see. You will know He is good.

Jared: Amen.

Shelby: Coming up tomorrow: what are some practical tips for maintaining intimacy in a busy family life? Well, President of FamilyLife, David Robbins, is here with Meg Robbins to talk about just that with Dave and Ann Wilson. We hope you’ll join us.

On behalf of Dave and Ann Wilson, I’m Shelby Abbott. We will see you back next time for another edition of FamilyLife Today.

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Episodes in this Series

FamilyLife Today
Friendship with the Friend of Sinners: Jared & Becky Wilson
with Jared And Becky Wilson February 12, 2024
Is Jesus a friend of sinners? Jared and Becky Wilson show us how Jesus' acceptance of us isn't determined by what we do.
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