I have been favored in my life with several very close friends. My closest childhood friend, Bob, survived cancer but died of a stroke back when he was 50 years old. We grew up together and, in fact, were locker partners through most of elementary school and also high school. We even attended the same church as kids. Our friendship continued into adulthood, even when Bob moved to Kalamazoo and embarked on his career there. We periodically saw each other and talked by phone – it was one of those relationships that just picked up where it had left off the last time we were together. I was honored to give a eulogy at his funeral a little more than 10 years ago.
I have also had very deep friendships with my seminary classmate, Paul, my ministry partners Rich and Roger, and several others throughout the years. But tonight’s story is about another great friendship that has withstood the test of time.
Mark and I have known each other for almost 30 years – we’re coming up on almost half a lifetime of friendship. We met back in the mid-eighties when I was selling temporary staffing for my company and he was in Human Resources at one of the area’s largest and well known employers. We hit it off and have been friends since. I was even best man at his wedding to his wife, Mayra. My relationship with Mark is a little different from my friendship with Bob. I am sure that is in part because we started as businessmen and that evolved into a personal friendship. The entire story is quite unlikely but it has worked for both of us. As the years rolled on, my faith evolved into a deeper relationship with Christ, while Mark still had many questions about faith and the role or Jesus in our lives.
One day, after golfing together, I prayed for Mark. We happened to be sitting a car at the time and it was the first time that we had really discussed faith or Christianity. Eventually, Mark turned his life over to Christ and became active in a church. Of course, our friendship has survived his moves to a number of places around the country as he grew in his career. All of our children have grown older and hopefully, we have both greatly matured in our faith. Of course, I know Mark and his family pray for us and we pray for them.
Lately, as you know, things have been a little overwhelming. Since we returned home last Thursday evening, Janet and I have started the process of dealing with the changes in our lives and have decided to enlist the help of our friends to pray for us and all the things we are dealing with. We do have a small community group – a Bible study, really – but with all the other issues in our lives, we have not met this summer. I miss the camaraderie.
Last night, I was feeling particularly stretched. Unpacking things from Janet’s parents, getting ready to start work in earnest again this week (I did some work while we were in Williamsburg) and all the normal things that happen when you return from being out of town. In fact, Janet has only been in Indianapolis 6 days in the last month.
So, I called Mark to share with him all the things that were going on. And you know what? At the end of the conversation, he asked to pray for me, on the phone. I was so grateful. It reminded me so much of the first time that I prayed for him in that car so many years ago. We’ve come full circle. You know, in my ministry role, I am usually the one praying for others. But sometimes, those of us heavily involved with pastoral responsibilities really need others to come alongside us and lift us up in prayer. As the saying goes, it takes a village. After I spoke with Mark, I called Paul. He’s the guy I think of as my personal pastor. And you know what? He prayed for me also – right there on the phone. I am so blessed to have these guys as such dear friends. I don’t know how I would get through all this without them.
While I was writing this post today, Mark sent me a short note – “Praying for you.” And down below was a Bible verse – the one I have chosen for this evening. The book of first Peter was written about suffering – written to first century Christians, primarily at the hands of Nero. From 1 Peter 5:7, the apostle tells us, “Get rid of your worries. Cast all your anxiety on Him because He cares for you.”
That’s great advice for me tonight, and I hope you will take heed also. God wants all of us to depend on Him when we are anxious or hurting. And that includes pastors. My prayer this evening is that you will surround yourself with friends who will pray for you and intercede with God on your behalf. In fact, Janet and I would appreciate every one of you reaching out and praying for us; for peace in the midst of all these life changes. Have a great day in the Lord, grace and peace…