Monday, August 30, 2010

But today it just hurts ...

It does not happen frequently but every now and then something happens and I just don't know how to respond. Today is one of those days. Today I shouldn't even be writing but I have to. I have to let this out. I have to say what I have to say.

I have had a particular friend on my mind for about a week. Memories of days spent together and events co-organized have been flittering around my brain like a butterfly on crack. They wouldn't land or go away. So today I decided to call my friend. He lives in the high country on a mountain in a far away state. I've always been more than a little jealous of that. The perfect place, the perfect climate, the perfect situation. We only get to see each other about once a year and the anniversary of our last visit had come and gone. So I dialed the number.

His wife answered. I greeted her and, after showing showing appropriate respectfulness, I asked if my friend was available.

The silence lasted so long that I honestly thought my phone had dropped the signal. She found her voice and told me that her husband had divorced her just over a year ago. Very shortly after our last meeting. The week after their 49th wedding anniversary. It was my turn for silence. Okay, understand that this is not just another blog posting for me. This is real, bloody, and not at all fun to write. I feel like a truck just drove through my heart and left a gaping wound big enough for the next disaster. This is a friendship of more than thirty years. And I had no idea ... absolutely no idea ... that this was coming. The last time we met we sat together in a booth at a St. Louis Bread Company and we reminisced, dreamed, and talked about our individual realities.

And not one word was said about what was really going on in his life. Not. One. Word.

This man knows all of my dirty laundry. We've worked together, prayed together, sweat together. We were part of a team that pulled a cross from Marion, Illinois to Springfield, Illinois to draw attention to the love of Jesus for every man. Each evening we (and five other friends) held a youth rally at a local church or high school auditorium where we shared the love of Christ. We worked together for over a decade on a yearly youth event that had a typical attendance of about 5,000 teenagers. Hundreds came to Christ over those years.

And now I wonder ... was any of it real? Was he just churning out another day at the office? Was I just a part of making his life successful? I do not know. I will never know. I want to talk to him. I will talk to him. But I can't just yet. I don't know what to say. I don't have words. I only have this gaping hole where, earlier this morning, I thought there existed a life-long friendship.

I am somewhat of an idealist. For a long time I really believed that the older you get the more friends you accumulate along the way. As you tack on the years I just assumed that your base of deep friendships grows. Gets wider. A natural result of shared experiences and heart felt commitment to what matters in life. To what is true. And I have been reminded today of a painful lesson. My assumption was not accurate. At the very least you can't count on it being accurate. Sometimes the base shrinks. Sometimes you count on someone and they choose to dive head-long over a moral and ethical cliff. They, in their woundedness, are not to be shot. They are to be prayed for, loved, and yet held accountable. I'm not at all sure where the balance is in that process. This is way too fresh to even begin to think about that.

The bible has a lot to say about "finishing well." It has a lot to say about being very careful that we don't help others only to be disqualified ourselves at the finish line. I don't know that I can help my friend. I have great reason to doubt that our conversation will go well. I suspect (and I deeply, most sincerely hope I am wrong,) that it will at best be a sham. And I am trying today to wrap my head around the fact that I cannot fix that.

But here is what I can do.

I can finish well. I can commit myself in a fresh way to my call. I can say to those who count on me that I will be worthy of their trust or die trying. I can do no less. There may be those whom I have disappointed or let down in the past. Those who have questioned my motivations or actions over 55 years of living surely exist. To those I say "I am sorry." I say, "I am not perfect." Maybe you are right. Maybe you are wrong. I must answer to my God. But I can also say that I am in hot pursuit of following the only truly Holy One and I will not give up. The finish line may come today, it may come in decades, or any moment in between. But I will cross it and I will live for that moment of hearing from The One I do count on the most as He says ... "Nice job. Welcome home, son. I think you'll like the place I've got ready for you."

But today it just hurts.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Why I Am Crazy About Paisley

This face ... this face could melt the heart of a grandfather. If he was not so strong and burly. This face could actually cause a grandfather to dole out an extra afternoon treat. If he was not so wise to the ways of women folk.

Okay. I admit it. We ate gold fish crackers till we nearly puked. And then I took a nap while she stayed up and watched cartoons.