This continues my story with James, a strong, straight guy and a natural leader; many of my other friends call him an “alpha male.” He and I have developed a close friendship despite having very different personalities.

Real friendships are not just continuous, warm feelings. Our friendship has been tested.

James has always taken seriously Jesus’ admonitions to care for the poor, so he and I talked about starting a house together where we would reach out to the homeless and others in need, such as immigrants. I never had the courage to do such a thing on my own, but James’s fearlessness and commitment to action motivated me to join him!

We rented a house and started taking in guys who found themselves homeless. One guy was kicked out of his parents’ house when he was 18. One guy was a single father who had a tough time paying for both daycare and rent. Another guy was out of jail on parole and had fathered several kids with various women.

I was the only guy at my new house dealing with same-sex attraction (SSA).

These guys were tough to handle, but to my amazement I found myself building friendships with people who were definitely not “safe.” I grew immensely in my courage. James and I had to work through all kinds of difficult situations, and our bond grew even closer.

We had to deal with housemates’ substance abuse issues and break up fistfights, and once we even stopped a housemate from breaking into a car. One particular incident included James standing between me and a violent housemate in order to keep him from hitting me. That act of love and courage magnified my love and respect for him!

I don’t know how to describe this any better than to say that my friend’s love and courage under fire won my friendship and loyalty.

Even if James were to act like a total a**hole toward me for the rest of my life, I would still love that guy! (He has NOT, by the way!)

Some of our housemates responded very well to what we were doing for them; others did not. We kicked some guys out and kept others. Pierce, in particular, received a lot of help. He had grown up nominally Catholic but was not very serious about his faith when he left his parents. After living with us for a few months, Pierce began to see how James’s and my love for God motivated us to help others.

He started asking a lot of questions and eventually came to faith in Jesus Christ himself, not just going along with his parents or others around him. Pierce formed friendships with many of the guys in the house, including me.

All these ups and downs often caused me emotional pain. I had to take risks rather than stay safe and comfortable.

My SSA made me feel weak and ineffective around all these straight guys. These painful things tested my friendship with James, too.

I could have run away, but I am so glad I did not! Instead, as I faced each situation and took action, I grew in courage and my ability to relate to others. Being friends with James was emotionally painful at times, but so well worth it!

James is great at athletic training, so he has motivated me to seriously work out and set fitness goals for the first time in my life. I’ve had a few minor injuries along the way, so James has actually caused me physical pain, too!

Again, the results have been worth it.

What happened next, though, tested my friendship with James even more. One Sunday, a friend walked up to me with tears in her eyes and said: “Pierce is dead!”

To be continued . . .

Have you ever had a friendship tested? Did it grow stronger? Did it fall apart? What struggles have you endured in order to grow a friendship?

  • I’ve definitely had my close friendships tested. Whether it was something like a move that created distance, an unexpected job change, or a conflict between us, I think each of my friendships has faced a challenge at some point. And the options are either work through it or leave the relationship. I usually picked he former option- I want to overcome the challenge and not a lose a friendship over a conflict. However, I’ve lost friends during a challenge.
    Thank you for sharing, Marshall. I’m sorry to hear that this was brought on by a loss of life. I look forward to hearing how God has used all of this though.

    • Dean, I have read your stories and I appreciate how difficult some of those tests to your friendships have been. Like you, I usually choose to work hard at resolving the problems because my friends mean so much to me.
      What I have described already was tough for me, but I kept fighting and did not abandon James when he needed me.
      James and I responded very differently to Pierce’s death and that was even harder.

  • For my long term friendship, I confronted my best friend as to our current level of relationship. This was after I had spoken to my therapist and I had the opportunity to go my friend’s on an errand. I basically asked him if he was comfortable with the level of our relationship. We were friends and he does know personal things about me, but nothing I’ve shared here really. I managed to test the waters with him without being completely open. He said he was satisfied with our level of intimacy and didn’t feel it necessary to divulge any skeletons hidden in my closet. I yielded to his position and chose not to press the issue any further.

    • Mac, you did the right thing. When someone does not want to talk bout personal feelings, wee all need to respect his boundaries and not push too hard, unless it is a life and death situation.

  • Marshall

    Jesus told us to deny ourselves, take up our cross, and follow Him. I seek to do that with great joy, because He is better than everything we give up! Also I want to love others in an unselfish way as Jesus taught. I currently do my best to live out that kind of love with 15 other friends on a farm near the Maryland suburbs of Washington, D.C. I love talking about what really matters, and seeing a friend's heart turn from pain to joy, from fear to peace, and from despair to hope! My writing tends to focus on the topic of friendships with other guys. I have never married and am currently the oldest author on YOB.

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