I think it was Jay Leno who said, “A good friend will help you move; a really good friend will help you move a body.” Everybody needs a friend—something I was reminded of these last couple of weeks. The first weekend of July Dayna and I made a Texas trip to see some family with a couple of our best friends (who really are more like family). Then, I spent the last part of this past week meeting up in Arlington, Virginia, with two of my best and oldest friends.
Honestly, I feel a little awkward writing about friendship. I have never fashioned myself a very good friend. If I’m needed I’ll be there and am glad to be there and usually even want to be there. But it seems that most of my friends have to take the initiative in our relationship—they usually make the first call, set up some kind of get-together, make things happen. I’m a rather passive friend, I guess. I wish I was better at it.
And I could learn from my friends who are so very good to me. That’s George Flanagan and Drew Hill in the picture above. After spending his whole adult life pastoring churches in Missouri, Drew just followed the Lord to a church in Arlington, Virginia. Drew, George, and I try to get together once a year if possible since we all live in different places. And we determined that we weren’t going to let Virginia’s distance from Missouri and Arkansas get in our way (especially when I have frequent flyer miles to redeem). So we met at Drew’s new digs in Arlington. You know how it is with a friend—when you picture them in your mind, when you pray for them, you want to be able to picture them in their environment. We can do that with Drew now.
And as always, we picked up right where we left off last year. I’ve known George since 1981. We worked together two different times on the same church staff. I’ve always considered him my pastoral therapist. He’s counseled with me concerning life and marriage on more occasions than he probably wanted to. But he’s a friend, so he always listens. I’ve known Drew since the mid-80s. He’s a brother pastor. I know much of his family as well. We hit it off from the first. Like me, Drew shares the spiritual gift of sarcasm. He has a rich sense of humor. And yet he knows when to be serious too. We share other gifts and passions. We can talk shop or sports or family or our own junk or anything else. The same goes for George. We laugh a lot (a whole lot) when we’re together. We laugh with each other and at each other. We can pick at each other and tease each other and encourage and bless each other too. We’ve all three been friends together since 1992 when we entered the doctoral program. We were in the same doctoral peer group. We did several seminars together. We sweated our doctoral projects together. And we graduated together. We’ve been tight ever since.
Now, I suppose you could say that we all sort of choose our friends in life. There’s much truth to that. But don’t you think there’s some divine mystery behind it too. C. S. Lewis once wrote this about friendship:
In friendship, we think we have chosen our peers. In reality, a few years' difference in the dates of our births, a few more hundred miles between certain houses, the choice of one university instead of another … any of these chances might have kept us apart. But for the Christian, there are, strictly speaking, no chances. A secret Master of Ceremonies has been at work.
I’m thankful the secret Master of Ceremonies saw fit to bring George and Drew into my life. I treasure their friendship. I learn from them. I’m a better Christian because of them. And I can’t wait to get together with them again. Do you have some friends like this? I hope so … because everybody needs a friend.
In 1961, near the end of his life, baseball legend Ty Cobb confessed, “If I had a chance to live my life over, I’d do things a little different … I’d have more friends.” I think I would too—especially if they are friends like George and Drew.