What Mud Puddles Can Teach Us About True Friends


More than just Band-Aids or Bible verses, our struggling friends sometimes need someone who is willing to sit with them in the muck.

“A true friend loves regardless of the situation, and a real brother exists to share the tough times.” Proverbs 17:17 (VOICE)

I sat in my mini-van in her driveway and agonized over what I would say if she answered the door.

I hadn't planned to stop as I passed her house on my way to the grocery store, but something my friend said the day before kept running through my head like a doleful echo.

We’d been sitting on the edge of the sandbox at the park, our young ones building castles at our feet, when she’d mentioned a personal struggle that threatened to steal her hope.

She masqueraded her vulnerability with a flimsy giggle, but the tears pooling in her eyes bore silent testimony to her pain.

I hadn’t known what to say, so I’d pressed right through the moment with a one-armed hug and an empathetic nod, and we quickly shifted our conversation to something more comfortable — books we’d read and upcoming church events, potty training woes and soccer schedules.

But then a verse showed up in my daily devotion before I raced out the door. And a clamp of conviction squeezed my heart in a quiet knowing.

“A true friend loves regardless of the situation, and a real brother exists to share the tough times” (Proverbs 17:17).

So there I sat in her driveway, idling in uncertainty and wishing I knew what to do.

What if I knocked on the door and messed it all up? After all, I wasn’t a psychologist or a pastor, a doctor or a counselor. I was just a sleep-deprived mom with struggles of her own.

I was about to shift my van into reverse and ignore the nudge in my soul, when I remembered a simple conversation I'd had with my 8-year-old daughter.

Hannah had come home from second grade with a bloodstain on her sleeve and a splotch of dried-up mud on her backside.

The story spilled from her lips between bites of apple slices and Goldfish crackers:

“Grace got hurt at recess today. She scraped her knee on the cement when she tripped on the kickball and fell in a puddle.”

I’d swallowed a giggle, as I tried to picture the clumsy scene.

“So you took her to the nurse?” I’d asked as I attempted to fill in the gaps.

“No,” Hannah replied with a humble shrug. “Grace’s leg hurt too bad to walk. But the fastest boy in second grade said he’d run and get the teacher for help. So I just sat with her until the teacher came.”

“In the mud puddle?” I’d retorted with an incredulous laugh.

“Yeah …” Hannah had replied with a quiet sigh. “I think she just needed a friend to be with her while she waited.”

I’d wrapped my daughter in a proud hug and vowed to remember what my puddle-percher already knew.

When we have nothing to give, we can give ourselves.
When we can't fix the problem, we can offer our presence.
When we can't heal a hurt, we can hold a hand.
When we can't find the words, we can render our with-ness.

I stared once more at my friend’s front door and then dropped my head in prayer. Lord, show me what to do. When I opened my eyes, I noticed a dried splotch of chocolate milk splattered across the knee of my well-worn jeans.

The splatter was a battle scar from our hurried breakfast chaos, but in that moment on the driveway, the unsightly blotch of chocolate bore an uncanny resemblance to a murky brown mud puddle.

So, I took a cue from a second grader who understands friendship a little better than her mama, slipped out of the van and walked up the front sidewalk. I rang the doorbell and waited with nothing to offer but my stain-splattered self and my humble gift of with-ness.

Because sometimes more than Band-Aids or Bible verses, more than rescue or repair, our struggling friends just need someone who is willing to sit with them in the muck.

Dear God, give me courage to offer the gift of my presence to a friend in need. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Proverbs 18:24, “One who has unreliable friends soon comes to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.” (NIV)

John 15:14, “You are my friends if you do what I command.” (NLT)

Spend some time with a friend who needs the gift of your presence this week.

If you are in a “mud puddle” season, invite Jesus to be the friend in your mess. Read Matthew 1:23 and savor the meaning of His Name.

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