(title for this post is from 2 Corinthians 12:10)
Last night I was lucky enough to deliver the closing message at our local F.C.A.’s “Fields of Faith” event in Millersport, Ohio. It was an inspiring event and provided me with an opportunity to truly appreciate the strong convictions that our young people hold in regards to their faith. Several of the local chapter’s leadership team shared their testimonies with the audience and were authentic and transparent where it concerned their struggles with their faith aligning with their actions. I can say with a high degree of certainty that when I was 16-18 years old, I would not have had the courage or conviction to stand up and say the types of things that they said to a crowded auditorium (our event was moved inside due to rain). These young people were not only speaking but they were encouraging each other and embracing one another when the stories got too personal as they sometimes tend to do. It was great to see that they had not yet fully developed those “filters” that adults have that tend to make us wary of sharing too much with anyone and stop us from speaking up when have something to say. It was truly a blessing to attend the event and all left much closer to God than when we arrived.
As we all know, with highs come lows. Later in the evening as I was winding things down for the night, I received the news that one of my closest friends had received their test results back and he did have cancer. He checked into the hospital Monday of this week for what he thought was a hernia but by Monday evening he was in surgery as they worked to remove a mass from his lower abdomen. He then had to lay around in the hospital and ponder the scenarios for a couple of days until the test results came back.
I need to put this in context, so here it goes…We:
- are both 42 & have been friends for 25 years
- worked together at 2 separate jobs
- were in business together for several years
- had a significant disagreement in our business and did not speak to each other again for about 6 years
- reconnected about 2 1/2 years ago (accidentally)
The first time we spoke after our friendship hiatus, it was quite by accident and only because he saw me before I saw him. Regardless, he asked me to meet for lunch & I agreed. This was a major step because we parted in such an acrimonious fashion, he refused to with me unless there were other people present. There had been a few major events occur since we had last spoken and one was he had settled down and had a baby. This was his first child and it was a “game changer” for him. During that time, I had also experienced change in that I had accepted Jesus Christ as my Lord & Savior. As we were talking I was thinking of all of the anger that had once raged inside me whenever I saw him and now it was gone. He was telling me how things had changed for him and that this time it really was different (I had heard that song & dance many times before). When he finished speaking, I told him that I had no choice but to believe everything he was telling me. The reason for this was that I knew I certainly was not the same man I was when we had parted company 6 years earlier. In fact, I bore little to no resemblance to that person. I came to the conclusion that I could not question him as to his change because I knew for a fact that God had done some pretty amazing work inside of me and the same could certainly have occurred in him.
Fast forward back to Monday. My cell phone rings and it is his daughter telling me they are in the hospital and that her dad want’s to talk to me. As he begins to speak, I can hear him choke up. He says he is so thankful that we were able to…and then he breaks down and cannot finish the sentence. I fight back the tears on my side and tell him I know what he is trying to say and agree. I tell him to take care and we hang up. I went down to see him Wednesday and spent about an hour talking about “stuff” as his mind wandered on and off the conversation (obviously thinking about when the test results would come back). When lunch arrived, it seemed like the time to go so I hugged him and told him to let me know once he received the results.
As I sat at my computer reading the posting on Facebook about his test results, I will admit it was a bit surreal. I found myself to be a bit numb. I was not able to concentrate on much after that and experienced a number of different emotions. I knew he would not be calling because it was not something you would want to discuss at all, especially over the phone. That feeling carried over to this morning as I had a few conversations with close friends and family about the situation. It was only when I began to write this post that the weight of the last few days began to rest firmly on my shoulders.
The tie-in between the “Fields of Faith” event and my friend’s situation is simply the effect of God’s grace & love. Grace is the “free & unmerited favor of God”. It is God’s to give and ours to receive. We cannot earn it and the only reason He gives it to us is because of His love for us. This love is described in 1 Corinthians 13:7, “It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.”
God’s grace & love are what enabled those young people to speak so freely about their challenges. It is also what drove the paths of two old friends to cross.
There is one thing I would ask. Matthew 18:20 says, “For where two or three come together in my name, there I am with them.” Take the time today and seek someone out and meet in His name to offer prayers for someone you know could use them…we all could.