24 ¶ A man who has friends must himself be friendly; But there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother. Proverbs 18:24 (NKJV)
By Bro. John L. Cash, “Country Preacher Dad”
In our little parsonage beside the country church, Sister and Miss Louvenia (the church cats) are constantly sitting in my lap or next to my feet on the footstool. The boys are always pondering aloud why the cats take up residence near me and not-so-much around them. I know the reason why. It’s because of my constant striving; I never want to do anything that will offend my cats.
When I told my sons my theory, they insisted that I must be mistaken. “What did I ever do to offend the cats?” said Spencer. I reminded him of the time when he burped and then slowly released his breath near the nostrils of the kitties while they were napping. “They don’t mind that,” he said. “Besides, I had just eaten a tuna salad sandwich. Cats love the smell of fish. Sister doesn’t mind that at all. She told me she didn’t.”
Spencer is a fine fellow, but he clearly doesn’t understand the nature of cats. They may not have shown any outward signs of disdain over his spontaneous game of “Feline Fragrant Fish Face.” But I guarantee the cats didn’t like it one bit. Pull a stunt like that, and they’ll twitch one whisker and assign you to the “Do Not Snuggle” list for good. Trust me on this one.
Then Seth said, “What did I ever do to offend the cats?” I reminded him of the time when he used rubber bands to attach little pieces of Kleenex to their little cat paws so that he could watch them dance the Macarena. He said, “What? I don’t remember that at all.”
Seth is a fine fellow, too. I even believe that he has forgotten his part in the “So You Think Your Cats Can Dance” episode. But rest assured of this: The cats have not forgotten it at all. Cats are not forgiving like dogs. Cats can hold a grudge forever. Perpetrate just one instance of humor at the lap-cats’ expense and you are toast. They’ll find a new human to cuddle with on those long winter evenings.
The cats are my constant companions because I make sure that they have no aggravation to fear when they are near me. It’s a good thing to know because the same principles that apply to cats will work with people, too. To have a friend, you have to be a friend. And mamas, August is a good time to teach this to your children.
With August comes the beginning of a new school year — a time that’s always filled with bountiful hope and nameless dread. I may be some kind of weirdo, but there’s something about seeing all the newly-purchased school supplies that makes my heart sing. I always love the task of going to the store with the school-mandated supply lists to buy all the loose leaf paper, pencils and pens, Elmer’s Glue and Crayolas. When you arrange all that stuff next to a brand new book satchel, it’s a sight that fills my soul with hope and expectation. It’s the start of a brand new school year, with no mistakes or erasures on it yet; it’s the anticipation of all the wonderful concepts that will be learned.
But August is also the time of angst and anxiety — all the anticipation regarding the answer to this question: “When I get to school, will I be all alone? Or will I have a friend?”
When Spencer was a young teenager, he changed to a different school system. I was very surprised on the first day when he (who makes friends very easily) told me of his nervousness about not knowing any of the other kids. I quoted him the first half of today’s Scripture verse (at the top): “A man who has friends must himself be friendly.” I still laugh when I remember his weary response: “Dad, you have a Scripture verse for everything.” 🙂
As you’ve probably guessed, Spencer went on to make many dear friends in his new school. King Solomon was right. If you will show yourself friendly, you will make friends. It’s important for your children to know that.
But the verse doesn’t end there. What about the times when people disappoint us, and we end up in a situation in which there is no friend to be seen? In those times we draw strength from the remainder of the passage: “But, there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.” We should thank the Lord for the true friends that He sends our way. But even if they are absent, we know that we always have a constant friend in the Lord Jesus Christ. He is the friend who sticks closer than a brother.
This week, as your little ones get ready to start their new routine, take a minute to talk to them about these things. It’s a stressful world out there. They’re going to need to know these things.
Dr. John L. Cash is the “Country Preacher Dad.” He was raised in Stuttgart, Arkansas, and has spent the last 26 years being a country preacher in the piney woods five miles south of the little town of Hickory, Mississippi. (On week days he works at a public school.) He and his lovely wife, Susan, and his sons, Spencer (age 20) and Seth (age 17) live in the parsonage next door to the Antioch Christian Church (where no cats were harmed in the production of this devotion.) He would love to hear from you in an email sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.