Who’s in Your Front Row?

Several years ago, the speaker at our annual women’s retreat, spoke on the subject of friends and their influence in our lives. Debbie Williamson, who pastors Grace Presbyterian Church with her husband in Temecula, CA, began the session with this quote: “Life is a theater, so invite your audiences carefully. Not everyone should be given a seat in the front row of our lives.”

I think about this while reading the second chapter of Job. It begins as Satan is permitted to attack Job’s health. His affliction of choice appears to be elephantiasis. Mosquito borne, this hideous disease attacks the lymph system and is characterized first by fever and roughening of the skin. Severe swelling follows in various parts of the body, like the legs and genitals, for starters. And once the parts swell, they don’t recede. Sometimes there is a foul-smelling discharge.

Add to this a wife drowning in her own grief who finally bursts out,”Curse God and die!” and we pretty much have a portrait of utter misery.

Job will settle into a pit of ashes, as mourners did in those days. He will sit and scrape his grotesque body, and wait. The only possible calamity left would be death, and God will not permit that.

But Job is going to have visitors. They will travel from their distant homes and arrive weeks later: Eli, and Bil, and Zo. They are old men and old friends.

And they are in the front row of Job’s life.

When they arrive, they will sit silently on the ground and grieve with him for a week. However, what unfolds in the many chapters to follow are lessons in pride, judgment, false assumptions, and, oh yes, TOO MANY WORDS.

But Job has not realized how the men in his front row have changed. Had he been at our retreat he would have heard several important things about close friendships.

First: It is YOUR front row. Not everyone gets a seat.

Second: It changes over time in the ebb and flow of life’s seasons.

Third: It is as much about quality as quantity. More is not necessarily better.

Our calling as friends is a spiritual calling. Wielding any kind of influence in the life of another is a serious thing. Wisdom, caution, and prayer are vitally necessary. And our front row should be able to speak the truth to us in love, keeping in mind that: Love without truth is enabling. Truth without love is paralyzing.

So far, Job has said nothing “against God.” So far. He will, unfortunately, be cruelly provoked by the very men whose words and presence should have been a balm for his wretchedness. Among a lot of other things, he’s going to need to rethink his front row.

Who is currently in the front row of your life? In what ways are they positively influencing your life? Negatively?


3 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Erin Smith on March 20, 2012 at 3:51 pm

    Wonderful Sister Deb… I remember quite well the session that you are referring to. The “front row” analogy has made a huge impact on how I do friendship. Such wise words. Erin


  2. […] in Chapter 3, Job sits in ashes in the depths of despair, with his friends sitting silently by. When he finally speaks, the first thing out of his mouth are […]


  3. Posted by Mary Lucas on November 5, 2012 at 1:36 am

    A concept I have revisited many times since the retreat….and continue to take to heart in each season of life since. Finally allowing God to have more room to help me determine who and why…it has taken time, and is a work in progress.


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