by Rebecca D. Higgins
“How was your weekend?” The typical Monday morning question floated over the office cubicle partitions as I prepped my computer programs for work on my first day back from vacation.
The co-worker to whom the question had been directed answered tersely: “Terrible!”
“Oh, I’m so sorry! What happened?” Concern poured from the voice of the questioner.
A halfhearted chuckle accompanied the explanation from my co-worker. “Oh, it was just the game!” [The University of Kentucky vs. Georgia football game] She went on to say, “I am so through with them!”– a sentiment I frequently hear voiced in regards to the UK football team. While known for its storied basketball program, UK is not known to be a football powerhouse. Many “fans” who are accustomed to cheering for a highly ranked, winning team when it comes to basketball just don’t seem to have patience with the football program. I call them fair-weather fans! They’re fans just as long as the team gives them what they want . . . wins! It’s all about what’s in it for them. After a loss they have nothing good to say about the players, coaching staff, or the officials. They don’t realize that just maybe the team needs their support even when they’re not doing well. I’ll be perfectly honest! I don’t have much patience for fair-weather fans!
You see, that’s just not the way I was raised! My father taught me by example that you don’t just cheer for a team when it is winning; you support it when it struggles. In fact, that may be the time when it needs the most support. My dad was a lifelong Chicago Cubs fan . . . need I say more?!!! If he were still around to listen to the call of their games on the radio (which is what he did his whole life since he didn’t get the TV broadcasts), he would have been pleased with how far they went this year. He never let their lengthy losing streak deter him from pulling for them and believing that they were worth his support.
It’s not hard to understand that since my dad had no toleration for fair-weather fans that he also taught that fair-weather friends really weren’t friends at all. We all know the type. They’re your declared “friends for life” as long as you meet their expectations, as long as you do what they want, as long as you are successful, as long as you are winning. But when you no longer measure up to what they expect, when you don’t give them what they want, when you experience setbacks and failures, they seem to disappear. Perhaps they think your failures might be contagious, and they certainly wouldn’t want to experience that in their own personal lives. They don’t seem to realize that friendship isn’t just about getting, but it’s also about giving. It’s about being there for the other person . . .even when that person fails, even when the person doesn’t meet expectations, even when the person is at his or her very lowest.
My dad was my high school principal at the private Christian boarding school where I grew up. He spent his whole life investing in young people. He understood that sometimes high school kids (and adults too) can make a mess of things at times. One thing that not all students of my father understood was just how much he cared about them even when his position and role required that he follow through with consequences for their actions. Just because a student failed to measure up to expectations, my dad still believed in second chances even when others may have given up hope. Several specific instances come to mind.
One young man was sent home for some infractions of the rules, but he had a change of heart at home and wrote asking that he be given a second chance and be allowed to come back. While some had reservations, my dad said “yes.” That young man proved that his change of heart was real. He became a pastor.
Another young man left the school and got involved with the wrong crowd. His choices landed him in serious trouble with the law that resulted in a conviction and prison sentence. My dad refused to write him off, however. Instead, he wrote him . . .literally! The whole time this young man was in prison, my dad regularly sent handwritten letters of encouragement expressing his belief that this young man could turn his life around if he’d let God have control. I honestly don’t know what became of him. Even though he responded to my dad’s letters while he was in prison, once he got out, to my knowledge my dad never heard from him again.
What’s my point? Don’t give up on people when they’re at their lowest. That may be when they need someone the most, someone who can look past what they are at present to what they can become through the grace of God. After all, that’s what Jesus did! We were LOSERS, with a capital “L”! We were sinners, but that’s exactly when Jesus stepped forward on our behalf.
“When we were utterly helpless, Christ came at just the right time and died for us sinners. Now, most people would not be willing to die for an upright person, though someone might perhaps be willing to die for a person who is especially good. But God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us WHILE WE WERE STILL SINNERS [emphasis mine]. And since we have been made right in God’s sight by the blood of Christ, he will certainly save us from God’s condemnation. For since our friendship with God was restored by the death of his Son while we were still his enemies, we will certainly be saved through the life of his Son. So now we can rejoice in our wonderful new relationship with God because our Lord Jesus Christ has made us friends of God” (Romans 5:6-11 NLT).
That, my friends, is no fair-weather friendship! And as Jesus stated at the conclusion of His parable about the Good Samaritan, we are to “go and do the same” (Luke 10:37b NLT), extending true friendship, mercy, and grace to others even when they don’t meet our expectations, even when they fail, even when they are at their lowest. After all, that’s when grace is needed the most!