ONE of life's shining moments must be meeting someone who becomes our friend. We feel gratitude for having shared friendship's precious legacy of trust and love with another whose thought was matched so perfectly to ours.

Such deep friendships leave no room for feelings of isolation or for doubts about self-worth. A friend is our validation of all we ever believed to be true about our own worthiness. Confusion about friendship, however, arises from the sharp experiences of friendship failed or vanished, even betrayal or abandonment. Then we wonder if friendship ever really exists on earth.

When human friendships fail, we are often led to see a higher sense of friendship--one that is spiritually based. The title ``Friend of God" was given to Abraham in the Old Testament because of his faithfulness to God's guidance. And faithfulness remains a core element of friendship. We read in Isaiah: ``O Lord, thou art my God; I will exalt thee, I will praise thy name; for thou hast done wonderful things; thy counsels of old are faithfulness and truth." God's friendship is reflected in faithfulness and

truth, the prophet seems to say.

Jesus of Nazareth understood that his best friend was his Father-Mother God. Christ Jesus never doubted that love was the highest possible manifestation of his relationship to God.

The Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science, Mary Baker Eddy, thought deeply about human friendship. Perceiving Jesus' true mission as Christ, she wrote in her poem ``Communion Hymn:"

Strongest deliverer, friend of the friendless,

Life of all being divine:

Thou the Christ, and not the creed;

Thou the Truth in thought and deed;

Thou the water, the bread, and the wine.

True substance and support are seen as the Christ-spirit that dwells in each of us. A friendship that sustains, protects, and inspires us. Who could ask for a better friendship?

Yet Mrs. Eddy was also keenly aware of human friendship's sliding scales. She writes in her book Rudimental Divine Science: ``The Discoverer of this Science could tell you of timidity, of self-distrust, of friendlessness, toil, agonies, and victories, under which she needed miraculous vision to sustain her, when taking the first footsteps in this Science."

Sometimes we may mentally outline our ``minimum standards for friendship and then wait for it to appear. But friendship is not an event of calculation. Nor is it accidental. When we acknowledge it, in awe and humility, we may think, ``Surely, God is with me in this miracle of friendship that fills my heart with joy. The bond between all of God's children is actually the result of Christ appearing in our experience, and in our hearts.

What shall we say about those moments of highest clarity, when we perceive friendship's ultimate experience, God's love for us? This is the one friendship that never withers or fades away, never abandons or defeats us. It is always with us and for us. The ultimate friendship is the unlimited friendship, unbounded in any way. It surrounds us right now.

When we find God's love for us, we rest in it and gladly turn to welcome all of our Father's children in true, spiritual friendship, as He would have us do. The gift we give, on the friendliest possible terms, to all mankind comes to us first from God. Could we possibly do less, in gratitude for having awakened to the omnipresence of God's great love? What wouldn't we do right now to win the honor of being called ``Friend of God?"

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