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Day 27: Sandpaper Friends {31 Days of Friendship}

As iron sharpens iron,
    so a friend sharpens a friend.

We need people in our lives who challenge us, test us, and spur us on to action. To be better than we are alone. To be smoother.

There are a few people I meet and with whom I interact who are irritating. They rub me the wrong way, if you will. You know the kind I mean. They get the smartphone upgrade a year before you're eligible. Their kids are smarter and more talented than yours--and you know because they are great at the humble brag. Their hair never looks grey. They get to go on vacation to exotic locations, while your "vacation," such as it is, is more of a staycation. Or, they might even score one more point than you on the ACT. I call them "sandpaper friends."

So the ACT reference might seem out of place, but this really happened to me. My friend Lucy* was a high school friend. We bonded through our shared love of youth choir and boys. She was a very good friend to me, don't get me wrong. She never broke a confidence or gossiped, or meant to hurt me. But without any effort at all, she one-upped me every time I turned around. (Or at least it felt that way.) The last straw that made me truly cry in my room for awhile was her ACT score one point higher than mine. I thought I was doomed to mediocrity because I couldn't get a higher score. (Later years would prove that I had a pretty dang good score on my own, but when my point of reference was this friend, I had a hard time seeing myself objectively.)

Sandpaper friends are in our lives for a reason. They are there to sharpen us and to smooth out our splinters--all by rubbing the rough parts away. I have had several sandpaper friends: in church, at the dance studio, even online. I used to get really upset about these women and their irritating ways--but now I call them my spiritual sandpaper. If we believe God plans our lives and places us together with others for specific reasons, then perhaps I need to be open to the possibility that the reason may very well be my own spiritual growth and edification. I have learned to try to look at the positive side of having sandpaper friends, looking toward how I can encourage them, perhaps help them, and learn from them.

So what about my friend Lucy Steele? Well, she continued to beat me at everything; her class rank was 12, mine was 13; she got something in front of her cum laude at college graduation, while I got a plain old cum laude; I went on to earn a master's, she got an MD. I became a teacher, and she became a doctor. But you know what? We're still friends 30 years later. We are both serving Christ and we're both happy in our own situations. Who could ask for anything more, really?

Oh yeah, smooth edges. I have those now.

* Name has been changed. I'm using Austenian pseudonyms for this series. Lucy Steele was a sandpaper friend to Elinor Dashwood in Sense and Sensibility. Not that this particular friend has tried to lay prior claim to the man I loved, as Lucy did to Elinor with Edward...but you get the idea. Plus this friend's real-life name has two syllables too.

To read the introductory post for this #write31days series, click here.


Carolyn White said…
Wow! Now I have a new way to look at my rough peeps as blessings - smoothing out my rough edges. Never thought of them as tools - guess I better start thanking God for blessing me with them instead of my grumblings. Thanks for the inspiration!
Christy said…
Don't really like those kind of 'friends' but they certainly do stretch us don't they? Reminds me of a feature film for families we love. "Down and Derby"

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