When Job's three friends, Eliphaz the Temanite, Bildad the Shuhite and Zophar the Naamathite, heard about all the troubles that had come upon him, they set out from their homes and met together by agreement to go and sympathize with him and comfort him. When they saw him from a distance, they could hardly recognize him; they began to weep aloud, and they tore their robes and sprinkled dust on their heads. Then they sat on the ground with him for seven days and seven nights. No one said a word to him, because they saw how great his suffering was. --Job 2:11-13
The snow was falling. It lent a hush to the world, a muffled echo of the numbness we felt. A playpen sat empty in the living room. An undecorated Christmas tree was leaning on the front porch. My son had died the day before. F. was at the door, telling me that if there was anything, anything at all, he could do, just tell him what it was. The child we had sought for so many years was gone. There really wasn’t much anyone could do. I invited him in and we looked at the three portraits from K Mart. I thought about the pictures we didn’t select. Ones we had passed on because of the expense.
“There are some pictures of Willy at K Mart we decided not to buy. I would like to have them.”
“Sure thing!” he said. “Don’t give it another thought.”
And off he went in that old white Dodge truck. He was back three and half hours later with those pictures (a distance of eight miles). Smiling ruefully, he explained that the snow had turned to freezing rain and folks were sliding off the roads everywhere. But he had the pictures.
Friends do things like that.
Our church had burned down because my son was playing with fire. It was 2:30 in the morning, the police had left with my child. I called T., my pastor and friend.
“I’m so glad you called!”
Within minutes we were at Denny’s, I was drinking coffee and he was eating an LT (they were out of bacon). He set aside his concerns for his church building, his skinned up arm (he was blown twenty feet out of the building by the explosion). We talked. We prayed.
Friends do things like that.
The fire marshall told me to fix some electrical problems (part of the home fire safety the DA asked us to complete). R., an electrician, bringing equipment, parts, wiring, and expertise, made it right.
Most men I know don’t make close friends. My father buys his friends. When they grow tired of his calling the shots on trips to Belize or Amsterdam, he gets new ones. This is a big mistake. The criteria for friendship shouldn't be that they never challenge us. It tends to make us self-centered and shallow.
I have one childhood friend still. We email and chat now and then. But there are some guys I can call any time, I mean ANY TIME. And they can call me.
Each month the days scratched off on the kitchen calendar wheel around to the little box marked: “Moon Howlin’.” Once a month five men get together, sit around a camp fire, and talk. We laugh, we joke. We talk politics. We talk theology. We sit by that fire, watching the flames lick chunks of split oak. And as the flames run through their cycles of leaping high on fresh logs and murmuring sleepily on cooling coals, we share who we are. We talk about our passions and our fears. We talk about our wives and children and dogs and trucks. We watch the full moon glide slowly overhead. We talk about what stirs our faith and where we struggle. We practice the art of listening and the art of story telling. I look forward to our Moon Howlin’.
That is what we are supposed to be doing.
As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another. --Proverbs 27:17
I once spent almost three months without speaking to, or even seeing, anyone else. I was curious about world religions and I read a four foot stack of books on every major world religion in solitude. And though that experience gave me background information I found valuable, and though it taught me how to be comfortable with my own company, it wasn’t a healthy thing to do. I was very awkward around people for a while. I didn’t know what to say, or where to stand, or where to put my hands, or anything. People need people. There is a reason we find hermits odd. They ARE odd.
We are created for company. The word company means “with bread”. We are designed to share our food and our lives. We are supposed to be passing a bag of peanuts around a fire. He made us that way because that is the type of being He is.
Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the LORD God as he was walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and they hid from the LORD God among the trees of the garden --Genesis 3:8
It was natural, normal, for Him to visit the man, visit the woman, and share who He is and take in who they were. It was natural because at the very heart of who He is, He is three. Relationships are what make Him God. And we are created in His image.
He made the angels, and He holds court with them (Job 2:3, Rev 4). He made us so that we can share ourselves, share eternity with Him.
As Americans we are so full of ourselves. We have taken our freedoms as some sort of mandate for self-centeredness. The point in being unique isn’t about selfishness. We are unique so that our lives lend texture to His relationships.
“...so in Christ we who are many form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. We have different gifts, according to the grace given us. If a man's gift is prophesying, let him use it in proportion to his faith. If it is serving, let him serve; if it is teaching, let him teach...” --Roman 12:5-7
It is good to be unique. But it should be used as an avenue for giving ourselves to each other and to Him.
We act different from each other, and we look different from each other. Diversity is good, but only because it makes the whole better.
“...After this I looked and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and in front of the Lamb...” --Rev. 7:9
I don’t wish to rail against bigotry or prejudice. I see it as a stupid point of view, but people need to grow on their own. My anger would not bear any useful fruit. It is better for me to just raise my African American children and continually explain to them why their skin is beautiful. They don’t need to look like me to be loved. Someday people will see that these issues are patently silly. Someday we will share eternity together.
We all need each other. We need friends in our lives, true friends who know when to talk, when to listen, and when to just sit quietly.
Getting to know God is unlike any other relationship.
I come to know Him through His word, through His creation, and through the events of my life. These things reveal His nature.
He comes to know me as I trudge along this trail of mortal existence. He comes to know me as I come to know, to make, myself. As I bumble through life, fumbling for a light switch in the dark, He whispers instructions. I stub my toes, bang my shins, and slowly learn to listen. I become more obedient and He smiles.
It’s a little scary. When I think of the maker of all things watching me, touching my life, it frightens me. I’m tempted to make the human to ant comparison, but omnipotent, omniscient creator to human being is clear enough.
Job puts it this way:
"What is man that you make so much of him, that you give him so much attention, that you examine him every morning and test him every moment? Will you never look away from me, or let me alone even for an instant?” --Job 7:17-19
I like the way David viewed it:
When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is man that you are mindful of him, the son of man that you care for him? --Psalm 8:3-4
It’s scary because I am so flawed. He doesn’t seem to mind. Odd as it seems, perfection loves imperfection. He loves me.
Things have gotten rough at times. I’ve made late night calls to close friends. But the first calls I make are to the friend who never sleeps, and is always willing. . . to walk in the garden in the cool of the evening.