(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.