Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Friending Well

(Our grandsons: Georgie patting his new cousin's head in welcome.)

Sooner or later, life kicks us where it counts.

Either through the willful or accidental mistakes from others or through our own stupidity and choice...we all get our turn at the bottom of the compost pile.

I've never really done the math, but I've had likely hundreds of thousands of phone calls in my life. I remember several of those that brought me bad news, of course, but just a very few that brought me good news; the type of news that would change my life.I was going through the roughest patch of my life up to those 45 years. The details aren't important, but let's just say my problems were self-inflicted. I was as low as I'd ever been. I was on the phone with a very old and dear friend, telling him my story of shame. I had no idea how he'd respond to my revelations of my behavior that was so out of character.

"I know some of the life you've lived, Greg. And I understand," he started.

And then he said words I'd never heard from anyone before."But you're my friend, Greg, and I will walk arm and arm with you...all the way to the Kingdom."

When you're at the lowest point in your life, what other words could bring not only tears, but healing? I cannot tell this story without tearing up, even seven years later. The words were simple but the message more deep than I thought anyone would ever give me.

"You're valuable to me, Greg. Your life counts. There is nothing you can do that will ever change it. We're in this world together so let's walk the path...arm and arm. All the way until we cross over to heaven."

Being a Christian for 30 or so years at the time, I expected these words from Jesus, but to hear them from another--especially at a time when I needed it most--helped reset my life. Through the course of the next year, I saw old friends fall off the map in silent and vocal ways, and lots more friends stay close by my side. Naturally, I got a new appreciation for those friends who stayed!

And I determined, even more than I had done in the past, that I would be that type of friend to anyone who needed one. It wasn't my role in life to condemn behavior, change behavior, judge behavior...but rather to simply listen, stick by, offer counsel (if asked) and try to represent the character of Jesus as best I could to all who came in my path; to walk with others arm and arm all the way to the Kingdom.

My wife Becky and I have attempted to do that with our family, those from our small church and anyone else who wander in and out of our lives. We take this role more seriously than our work by day as agent and writer. We see a lot of self-inflicted mistakes, and a lot of people stuck in circumstances that aren't pretty. People rarely need lectures or our sage advice, but they always need a friend who will never leave. That seems universal.

This little blog is dedicated to all of those who want to touch another life through unconditional friendship. Like with anything in life, we can either do this poorly, mediocre or well. I've made reams of notes, have hundreds of stories (that, if shared, won't carry real names), and am pouring through the Bible to get the best advice on how to "friend well." I know of very few things more important for a Christian to do and be than to love our neighbors the way Jesus would. In this world of "me first" it doesn't come naturally, but it is absolutely the most important thing we do.

William James once said, "The greatest use of life is to live it for something that will outlast it."

What outlasts our life? What's eternal? I know of only two things: God's Word and the souls of people.

So walking well with people is what this blog will be all about. But what's the goal of taking that path with precious souls? Is it to convert them or simply love them? My next post will talk about this tension.


  1. Great post. We can call be a better friend. I find with those who may not be believers there is a real tension between converting and loving. Then there's the how do you love the person and not put your stamp of approval on the way they are living, when it's cleary not according to the Word of God? Do we even have to worry about that? It's a struggle I face everyday. Looking forward to what you have to say about friendship and how we can become better friends.

  2. Thank you vor sharing your soul so transparently. And your conclusion a powerful summary of exactly what can only be meaningful in this life.

  3. Greg, thanks for writing this. It was fun meeting you last night, and now seeing your new blog. You look and seem exactly as I imagined.

  4. Greg, thank you. This is the kind of friend I hope I am, and if I fall short, I pray the Lord will forgive me and teach me to friend more deeply. I've needed friends like this and been blessed to have them just when I've needed them. You know what? Come to think of it, you and Becky are those kind of friends to me. You know... understanding is everything, and aside from your job, you all do that well. Thank you.

  5. Not sure exactly what to blog here....but this is interesting. Helping others is probably my number one goal in life. Although I am not a part of a church or a group, people who cross my path and need a helping hand will find one if it is possible. It's just not something you talk about though, because it would seem to be bragging and that is not why I do it at all. For years I thought the best way to help others was to be a missionary. As it turns out...there are always people within arms reach of me on a daily/weekly basis who struggle and something as simple as a talk (or 2) over the kitchen table can be the difference.