“Claire Alameda.” The nurse called out my name. I’d been sitting in the Emergency Room lobby for well over two hours. “Your friend wants to see you,” she said. I followed her into the ER patient area. Instantly my senses were assaulted. The lights were blindingly bright. The sounds of whooshing and dinging medical machinery rang in my ears. The unmistakable smell of antiseptic accompanied me down the hospital hallway. I felt a shiver as I entered the chilly examination room. Just then, Hazel, my friend, was being wheeled away on the gurney for a cat scan. I sat. I waited. I remembered.
“Class, find a buddy,” instructed our stately kindergarten teacher. I don’t recall the exact moment Hazel became my buddy. I just know that she always was. We grew up in the same southern California neighborhood and went to the same schools. Her house was directly behind mine. A red block wall separated our backyards. Every day we walked to the junior high school and back. We would part on the corner of my street only to race through our houses, meet at the back wall and finish our fascinating conversation. In high school, we were inseparable. People often asked if we were sisters even though Hazel is blond with fair skin and bright blue eyes and I’m a brown-eyed girl with brown hair and skin. We thought it was funny. Our birthdays are four days apart and I’m the oldest. Family circumstances took me away to Arizona where I graduated from high school and made my home. Hazel eventually moved and raised her family in the Pacific Northwest. We both met Jesus in different stages of life. My Kindergarten buddy became my Barnabas.
Barnabas is introduced in the New Testament book of Acts. He was a Christ follower named Joseph by birth, who was also called Barnabas which means Son of Encouragement (Acts 4:36). Barnabas became the Apostle Paul’s co-worker (Acts 12:25). Barnabas was Paul’s traveling companion accompanying him on his first missionary journey (Acts13:1). Like Paul, Barnabas became a preacher and teacher declaring Jesus and urging people to continue in the grace of God (Acts 13:42). The scripture records a disagreement between the two missionaries and later, the restoration of their relationship (Acts 15:39, Gal.2:1). Paul and Barnabas were friends and peers in their common mission. Their experiences were similar as they worked side by side and shared life together.
Having a friend and peer to walk beside you is as valuable as having a mentor who walks before you. (You can learn more about mentoring through “The 5 Attributes of a Mentor”) (The 5 Attributes of a Mentor) According to Dictionary.com, a peer is a person who is equal to another in abilities, qualifications, age, background and social status. She is a friend who is in a similar season and stage of life. She relates to where you are because she is going through comparable experiences. She perceives what you need. She discerns your struggles. She cheers your successes. She is there, always. A Barnabas is a Christian friend and peer whose shared faith is central to your relationship. She is distinguished by her desire for your walk with Jesus to be preeminent. She is a committed encourager and influencer for your good. She listens with intent to pray. She advises in the light and truth of God’s Word. She supports you fiercely but stands on the side of righteousness. She rolls up her sleeves in strength when you are weak. She helps with the practical. She sheds tears when you cry. She laughs at your “silly”. She forgives easily. She loves graciously. A Barnabas is an always friend.
|60th Birthday photo 2017|
Three years ago, Hazel moved to my town, the Old Pueblo, Tucson, Arizona. Together again, we have walked through our nests becoming empty as children leave home, marry and make their own lives. We have grieved the passing of beloved parents. We have celebrated our 60th year. We have encouraged one another in this new season and stage of life. In a few short weeks, my Barnabas and always friend will be returning to our homeland, California, to be closer to her family. I’ll miss her proximity but want God’s will and His best for my friend. And though I am sad to see her move I know that neither time nor miles will separate our hearts sustained in the unity of Christ.
From My Heart: Who is your Barnabas? Who do you encourage in their walk with Jesus? Take a moment and give thanks for your friend. Take it a step farther by sending her a note of appreciation and encouragement. You will make her day. Share a favorite story about your Barnabas and always friend in the comments below.