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Walter Albritton

July 15, 2018

 

The greatest of all earthly blessings

 

            When Dean and I married at age 20, we had a car and little else. Having no furniture, we rented a furnished upstairs apartment. Our income was meager but we had each other and we figured in time we could obtain the possessions we might need.

            Slowly but surely, with the help of credit from Sears and J C Penney, we began acquiring the stuff we thought we needed: a washing machine, a dryer, and within a year, a baby bed. But we did not plan well. We did not realize that by securing so much stuff on credit, we were creating the enormous burden of owing more than we could afford.

            Many years passed before we finally crawled out from under the burdensome debts in which we had buried ourselves. Even though I was at the same time trying to learn how to preach the gospel, I was ignorant of an important biblical principle. In Proverbs 22 Solomon explains it this way: “The rich rule over the poor, and the borrower is slave to the lender.” By chasing the American dream, we had borrowed ourselves into slavery. Gradually, with the good Lord’s help, we regained our freedom through wise and more disciplined spending.

Now, as an old man, I look back with some regret. I regret that it took me so long to realize that the greatest of all earthy blessings is a true friend. Had I been wiser, I would have been less concerned for a washer and a dryer and more concerned about building lasting friendships. Thomas Aquinas said it best: “There is nothing on this earth more to be prized than true friendship.”

This truth is often brought home to me by friends who choose to spend time with me. For example, a couple with whom we have a deepening friendship calls frequently and says, “Let’s go have a meal together.” So the four of us do that, spending perhaps three hours together, sharing ideas, complaints and blessings – and sometimes praying together before we part. Another couple recently called and said, “We are bringing a bucket of chicken over so we can do lunch together.” We had not seen them in a long time so we delighted in the renewal of our relationship.

True friendship does not require an “agenda” for such occasions. Real friends just enjoy being in each other’s company. What blesses me is sharing memories of times past, sharing dreams, heartaches and even regrets. I love laughing with good friends – about mistakes we have made or the humorous surprises of old age. Genuine friends can share their likes and dislikes, and disagree at time without becoming angry. The best friends are those who not only listen to us but understand us. The gift of understanding is such a priceless gift! The friend who understands my tears means much more to me than the many friends who only know my smile.

All of us need friends who care enough about us to show us the error of our ways and lovingly show us a better way. I need that and I need friends who will encourage me when I am doing the right thing and even walk alongside me when times are tough.

Stuff is useful and we all need some “things” but probably not as many as we think. I never wake up in the morning feeling the need to thank God for my stuff, though I am thankful for what I have. But I do wake up real often wanting to thank God for my friends – and to ask the Lord to help me “be” the best friend I can be to the friends God has given me.

Several of my best friends have become “like family” to me. Someone expressed that feeling this way: “Family isn’t always blood. It’s the people in your life who want you in theirs; the ones who accept you for who you are. The ones who would do anything to see you smile, and who love you no matter what.” How true!

Life is short. Value your friends much more than your things. Nurture and deepen the friendships you have. Live so that part of your legacy will be that of having been a true friend to those who will miss you when you depart this life. Do this not because of what your friends can do for you, but because a true friend is surely the greatest of all earthly blessings. + + +