The second thing I appreciate about my parents is their influence on me to choose godly friends. Whenever someone asks me what it is that my parents did in raising me that helped me the most (or a question along those lines) the thing I always find myself saying is their encouragement to choose godly friends.
I grew up with Christian friends who later in life seemed to stray from the narrow path. Although difficult to give up the close bond, my parents would often talk to me about the influence those friends could possibly have on me if I continued spending so much time with them. It's not that I sat down with these friends and told them they were influencing me negatively and I had to stop hanging out with them. No, thankfully nothing as hard as that. It seemed that as our priorities changed, our paths naturally went different directions so the parting was easier. No hard feelings are there... I still talk to these people occasionally and I still love them, but in order to grow closer to God, I needed to spend my time with friends who would encourage me to seek God, not guys. I needed friends who would challenge me on sin issues, not tell me it was okay because no one's perfect.
Don't hear what I'm not saying. I am NOT saying I disassociate with all non-believers or even more spiritually immature Christians. Absolutely not! But non-Christians are not my closest friends. They are not the ones I have deep heart to hearts with because there isn't that foundation in Christ. The friends I try to spend the most time with are strong Christians who encourage me, or whom I can encourage.
One of the hardest things I have gone through (and I've gone through it more than once) is seeing a godly friend stray and become enchanted by the world. Not to say I'm above this, or too spiritually mature to give into temptation. In fact, I fell hard my first semester... but I thank God for that because I now realize that I'm not as strong as I thought and I can't withstand temptation the way I thought I could ("Be careful if you think you stand, you just might be sinking"- Casting Crowns). It's only by God's grace that I saw my sin that first semester (and many times since then, often through godly friends). It's a continual battle and it helps to fight this battle with armor bearers in the form of godly friends, who are right beside me encouraging me to keep fighting, reminding me of the truth of the Gospel, and offering to carry my burdens with me. What a gift!
I appreciate, beyond what I could express with words (surprising, I know, given the length of this post!), my parents encouragement to seek godly friends, to make them the ones I spend the most time with. These aren't just peer friends, but friends who are older and younger. I have been encouraged by the high school girls I hang out with and I've also been encouraged by friends in their 30s and beyond.
So Dad and Mom, thank you for your encouragement to seek godly friends. Even though it's been hard to let the bond of certain friendships weaken, I know that it was best for me, because I have grown closer to God as I have witnessed other friends follow hard after God, and I wouldn't have gotten that with certain friendships.
I love you both and appreciate your example and encouragement in these two areas. :)