Anyone can build a treehouse. It’s not rocket science. It just takes developing a plan of what the desired outcome is, grabbing a hammer and some different saws, and taking quite a few trips to the local hardware store for supplies. There is one thing I found to be true in building them: It is much more difficult to do alone.
It was over lunch last week that a man I know shared his struggle with me. I could tell something was really bothering him within the first 10 minutes of our time together. It was the same struggle I had heard from many other men over the years. Heck, I’ve even shared this same struggle with some who would listen. He stated it simply:
He needed a friend.
Men need friends. But in our culture, we find it difficult to connect with other men at a heart level. So we often settle for the “friends” we have at work. These are doomed to stay at whatever level the job allows. Men know they need them, they know they don’t have many, but they don’t know where to start in cultivating them.
We say we don’t have time for them, especially as our kids grow. Some say they don’t have anything to contribute to a friendship. Some say they don’t have anything in common with other men, and others simply say it’s not something they need.
These are all excuses. Why do we give them? Because men are afraid.
Over the years I’ve had some incredible friendships. Not one of them looks the same. There are two guys that live quite a ways away from me that I consider good friends. Thirteen years ago they insisted on an overnight campout during the summer to “rescue” me from the craziness of being a summer camp director at the time. We haven’t missed a year since, doing that same night away. Over steak dinners each year we talk about our marriage, our kids, our struggles, and our vision for the next year. It is full of encouragement, challenge, and prayer. True friendship.
There are other men in my life who are closer geographically. These men I talk with much more regularly. We share our struggles, our disappointments, our sin, and advice. We confront at times, we listen at times, we laugh at times, and we carry burdens at times. Friendship. I can’t imagine life without it.
What men do to fill the void
Great wives are a good thing. I know mine sure is. Our marriage is healthy, intimate, and secure. But my wife knows when I’m in the “red zone” relationally with other men. She’ll suggest I go play poker with my good friend and next door neighbor, or that I call my good friend in Houston to talk about a problem I’m facing.
Many times, men try to make their wife a “substitute” for the lack of friendships with other men in their lives. So men begin treating them like they would other dudes. Little do they know they are crushing their wives spirit with each and every word. Wives can’t fill this need for men, and they never will.
So what did I tell the man over lunch?
I was encouraged to hear this man was contemplating who his friends were. To me, the tough work was already underway. He saw he had a need and was formulating how to fill it.
So here is what I suggested he do:
1. Make a list. Believe it or not, it helps to write their names down. You might be surprised at who makes your list. Remember, this isn’t about amassing large amounts of friends. Write down enough that could carry your casket someday. Somewhere around six.
2. Consider their needs before your own. I remember the little phrase I heard as a kid – “In order to get a friend you need to be a friend.” I encouraged him to reach out to some on his list just to check in on them. As I told him, EVERY man struggles with friendships. By him initiating with other men, it will help them open up to him as well.
3. Serve together. Some of my best friendships have begun over a project of some sort. Six years ago I was installing a sprinkler system in my yard. A friend drove in from out of town, spent two nights with me, and helped me install the entire thing. He is one of my closest friends today. There is something about doing a project together that forms bonds with other men.
I started this post talking about tree houses. There is a reason for that.
After a month of working nights and weekends with a friend, we have finally completed the tree house for his kids. My kids will be able to enjoy it as well, since he only lives a few doors down.
Yes, I enjoy working with power tools, and yes, I knew our kids would love the final product. But I must say what I didn’t realize I’d enjoy so much is just time with a friend.
I’ll leave you with pictures from the completed project.
The far away shot, including the bridge to the tree house
From the front right…
The back side…
All of our kids that will enjoy it…