Cultivating Eternal Friendships
By Audra Elkington
I am not ashamed to admit that I am a product of the 1980s and 1990s. In 1994, I was a Freshman in high school. At the time, it was trendy to have a notebook to exchange with a friend all day long. My friend Maggie and I cut out magazine images and phrases that we felt exemplified our friendship and covered a simple one subject notebook with them. We then would write back and forth to each other at school. Stashing the notebook in each other’s lockers throughout the day, so the other person could reply. Every single note was signed “BFF” or “LYLAS” - Best Friends Forever or Love Ya Like a Sister. I sure do wish I still had that notebook.
Maggie and I have since gone our separate ways, but I’ve been thinking about her a lot lately. I haven’t talked to her since that Freshman year because my family moved to a different state shortly after school ended. But, I think I meant it when I wrote down BFF and LYLAS. I didn’t know that at the time, but now I truly hope that we get to reconnect and laugh about those notes on the other side of the veil.
As I think about what it takes to cultivate friendships that last into eternity, my mind has filled with images of Jesus interacting with his friends in the popular series, “The Chosen.” I have read the New Testament multiple times and I know that Jesus was considered a friend to many, but the visual in a television series has helped me to see this more clearly. Jesus is the supreme example of what it looks like to be a friend and I know that he did not waste his time on things that were not of eternal significance.
His call was to love all and to bring all back to our heavenly home. In fact, he loved his friends so much that even when they were in the very act of betraying him, he still responded with love. In Matthew 26:50 we read, “And Jesus said unto him, Friend, wherefore art thou come? Then came they, and laid hands on Jesus, and took him.”
His disciple Judas had just turned him in to those who would eventually hang him on a cross to die. Knowing this, Jesus still called Judas “Friend.” I want to be that kind of friend. The kind who sees the potential in others, in spite of their shortcomings. The kind of friend who encourages others to seek goodness. The kind of friend who laughs and has fun in ways that will help all of us to find or remain firmly on the covenant path.
How do we develop these types of friendships? By following the example set by our Savior, Jesus Christ. We show genuine love and compassion. We pray for each other. We comfort one another. We encourage the goodness we see and seek to bring more light to expel darkness.
We know that this life is just a short time in the span of eternity. Why wouldn’t we want to spend time cultivating relationships that will continue throughout? Friends make life more fun and meaningful. “They will be a great strength and blessing to you...They will help you be a better person and will make it easier for you to live the gospel of Jesus Christ.” (For the Strength of Youth, “Friends”)
And how do we find these types of eternal friends? “To have good friends, be a good friend.” (For the Strength of Youth, “Friends”) I pray that we will all strive to cultivate friendships that are eternal by following the example of our Savior.