I left him at the coffee shop. He’ll be by in a minute or two.
My old guitar playing friend, Panama hat on head, had just burst through the front door bringing with him a blast of June heat. Frequently, he is accompanied by our preacher buddy, but that one was missing today.
I didn’t ask the question, but he felt the need to explain his absence. Smiling, I told him we’d just have to make do with each other’s company until he got there.
We did just fine, settling most of the world’s problems in the next half hour. It took that long for the preacher to arrive. When he wandered in sheepishly, he looked at the guitar player with a hurt look. Quietly, he asked a question.
“Where did you go? I was just sitting there finishing my coffee, and it occurred to me that you were gone.”
The guitar player, as he is wont to do, laughed uproariously. No apology was forthcoming, just a verbal jab about paying more attention, and it was forgotten.
Sweet fellowship comes in strange places, and with strange companions.
The preacher ministers in an organization not known for a big tent doctrine, yet he calls us his brothers. The guitar player earns spending money playing in pubs and bar rooms, but calls my God his.
I’m not even sure how I came to be included in the circle, but included I am, never feeling the uneasiness of an outsider—not even for a moment.
As I write, I remember—just an evening ago it was—sitting at a table for hours with our old friends. The Lovely Lady and I, along with two other couples, sat as we do every month sharing a meal. We shared much more than food, as the laughter poured out, and then the tears were wiped away.
And God said, it is not good for the man to be alone. (Genesis 2:18)
The companion He gave His friend—what else would you call a person you walk with in the cool of the evening?—was not only to ease the loneliness for the one man, but also to lend companionship to the millions who would come after.
What an astounding gift!
Think of it. Of all the innovations which would come into existence over the centuries ahead, God decided the most important thing He could do for mankind was to give him companionship.
I have experienced the companionship of a wife. It is indeed extraordinary. Life-changing, even. I wouldn’t trade a minute of the nearly forty years I’ve had with the Lovely Lady. Still. . .
Still, friendship looms in my mind as one of the best things in life. Better than fine cars; better than a wonderful house; better still than a huge bank account.
Sometimes friendships end in disaster. It happened to the early followers of the Christ, you know.
The Apostle who wrote so many letters, my namesake, had a few friends who traveled with him on his early trips to establish churches. The young man named John Mark was part of that group.
Friendships go that way, you know. The buts come into play. Human nature being what it is, people disagree. Some get hurt and take their toys to go home.
John Mark did just that, deserting his friends. Later, when his uncle wanted to give him another chance, the Apostle suggested that his uncle might be better off somewhere else, too. (Acts 15:37-39)
Friendships are broken. How sad. The sweet gift of companionship turns bitter and feels more like a punishment than a joy.
Ah. But, it’s not, is it?
Broken bridges can be rebuilt. Lines of communication may be reopened.
Somehow though, in our culture, we teach folks to wash their hands and hearts of friends who have deserted us. Don’t let them hurt you again, we admonish.
And the Apostle sent word: Bring my young friend, John Mark back with you. I need him. He is useful to me in my ministry. (2 Timothy 4:11)
I need him.
There are no throw-away friendships. How do we toss away a gift from the Creator of all the universe?
Ah. Our friendship with the people who sat around that table last night is a sacred thing. Forty years or more, we go back.
But, I’ll tell you something else: My friendship with those two who sat with me in my music store today is just as sacred. We joke and we tell stories. We get on each others’ nerves as we sharpen the rough edges away.
Let’s sing something.
The preacher suggested it today, as the guitar player sat in his tee-shirt strumming the shiny new acoustic. The button-up shirt had been removed (without embarrassment) to avoid scratching the glossy finish on the back.
After a few false starts to get in the right key, the rich baritone voice of the preacher took the lead. The guitar player, his full bass voice booming and his fingers flying, was right there with him.
I managed to harmonize on the tenor part a bit as the song progressed.
O come, angel band.
Come and around me stand.
Oh bear me away on your snow white wings, to my immortal home.
Oh, bear me away on your snow white wings, to my immortal home.
There are moments when the light shines so brilliantly from above that I’m a little blinded.
It wasn’t beautiful music.
It was beautiful.
Every good gift—Every perfect gift—comes down from above, coming down from the Father of Lights. (James 1:17)
No argument tonight from this scribe.
It’ll do until something better comes along.
(Sarah Orne Jewett ~ American novelist/poet ~ 1849-1909
Two people are better off than one, for they can help each other succeed. If one person falls, the other can reach out and help. But someone who falls alone is in real trouble.
(Ecclesiastes 4:9-10 ~ NLT)
© Paul Phillips. He’s Taken Leave. 2016. All Rights Reserved.