“Iron Sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another.” Proverbs 27:17

The alarm blares, 5:30 a.m. on a Sunday morning. I wake up to meet my friend and running partner. For us, Saturdays are for rest. Sundays are for running.

On a typical Sunday morning, my Camry swings into the parking lot ten minutes late. My running partner waits patiently parked under the streetlamp.

On this particular Sunday, I’m parked under the streetlamp avoiding the chilly 32-degree temps. My friend speeds into the parking lot ten minutes late. She fumbles out of her car, simultaneously tying her key to her shoelace. It’s almost comical as she spills out of the driver’s side door dressed in her husband’s oversized clothes. Who is this girl, usually so prompt and put together?

I laugh a little. Glancing up at me she says, “I know, I’m kind’ve a mess.” Her outward appearance mirroring a turning frenzied season of life.

No judgment here. This girl walked me through tough seasons. She walked me through life when depression anchored me to the couch, when showering regularly wasn’t a priority, when peanut butter scoops equaled a meal, and when I cried in a graffitied bathroom stall. She snuck into the one next to me, kept me company, calmed me with her prayers. She showed up as I too fumbled through life.

Over the past years, we’ve run countless miles together. We continuously marvel at God reuniting us in seasons of need. One of us strong, the other weak. One of us preaches truth, the other listens. We take turns recounting scripture we’re reading and the scenarios we’re living. We wrestle each truth as we try to reconcile the two: life and truth. We let tears of laughter and lament freeze to our face in those early morning hours.

Our feet hit the pavement while our honest words, questions, and thoughts sharpen each other. We dare say the unspoken questions. We dare say the difficult answers neither of us wants to hear. When words fail, we say prayers we wish we didn’t have to release from our lips. Yet, we both walk away changed with a sharper view of God’s faithfulness.

She is my iron. I am hers. We take turns sharpening each other. For as long as God brings us together we will sharpen each other so that we can sharpen others. This is hard. This is beautiful. This is necessary. People are necessary.

My running partner and I have learned a few things over the years. First, sharpening is continuous. Life dulls us. Difficult scenarios come out of nowhere. We need people continuously sharpening us. It prepares us for our response when these difficult moments happen.

Secondly, we learned intentionality. We live with others, but all too often we’re simply bumping into them. We need intentional relationships with trusted people. They can come at us with words, questions, and prayers that cause friction. We do the same for them with hearts of truth, mercy, and grace.

Thirdly, it looks different for each friendship. For the two of us, we run. Early mornings, once a week. We run. It’s what works for us. Other sharpening friendships happen over play dates, pool dates, coffee dates, neighborhood walks, text messages with gifs included, monthly prayer nights, or grocery shopping errands. It freely happens anywhere, anytime.

Take the risk to welcome sharp iron-like friendships. Who is sharpening you with truth? How are you sharpening others? Is your heart welcoming this friction or avoiding it?