Chris was one of my best friends growing up in grammar and high school. We had similar interests, were both at or near the top of our class in grammar school and would frequently stay over at each other’s homes. I always enjoyed going over to Chris’s house. He had a neat room and there was even a door that led to the basement so we could play table tennis until all hours of the night.
He was a better player than I was, but he also pushed me to get better and that is pretty much the story of our lives together. We pushed each other to get better. When we became college bound, we went our separate ways. Chris went to Michigan and I stayed in the Chicago area commuting to the University of Illinois at Chicago (UICC) while I lived at home.
While we were both pretty solid in math, Chris was much more artistic than I was and he also loved archeology, something that I never connected with. I was more of a business guy, dreaming about how to launch a company or make something more successful. I even considered becoming a doctor for a number of years. Additionally, Chris could rest in things being the same – the routine of life appealed to him and he went on to earn his doctorate – eventually entering academia and becoming a world renowned expert in his specific field of study. He has published numerous books and has spoken many times at national conferences, even shepherding people through the doctoral process as their mentor.
On the other hand, I would have been bored to have had a salary that didn’t change much year to year. I liked the idea of not knowing how I would do the next year and it kept things interesting for me. I studied leadership and enjoyed building companies. And I always appreciated Janet’s willingness to support my dreams in spite of the fact that it made life more risky than she would have initially liked. But, thankfully, it turned out okay… Clearly, Chris and I had similarities but were, and are, remarkably different.
Other than when we briefly met at an airport in Phoenix many years ago, Chris and I lost touch. Each of followed our careers and lived on opposite sides of the country. But, several years ago, Chris was scheduled to address a conference here in Indianpolis and we got together for dinner – for the first time since elementary school. We had that immediate connection from our childhood and it was like time had compressed and the years melted into the past. He came back to the house with me and met Janet for the first time. She immediately saw what I had seen in Chris so many years ago in our childhood and to this day, she thinks he is great!
Chris and I now keep in touch regularly and have long chats by phone. We share the same zany sense of humor and have the shared background of having known each other’s families. And as well as we get along, it is amazing how fundamentally different we are. God has gifted us in entirely different ways. We have come to the place where we teach each other and still challenge each other when we speak. Our conversations aren’t scripted and we never know what rabbit trail we will go down. Each of us is made stronger by being friends with the other and there isn’t any topic that we can’t approach and discuss.
Sometimes, I am the student and at other times, the teacher. It doesn’t make any difference to either of us. There is no competition and we defer to each other when are in each other’s field of expertise. It is a great relationship… founded in mutual respect, a connected past and a desire to learn from one another.
Our verse tonight is a short one, but one you have undoubtedly heard many times before. Solomon, the author of Proverbs, tells us, in Proverbs 27:17, “As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another.” What a great way to describe my relationship with Chris. My encouragement is that God surprises us by putting people in our lives who can make us stronger and help us to use our God given spiritual gifts. My prayer is that we will always be on the look-out for these opportunities and even if we wait years to be energized by such a relationship, as Chris and I have waited, it will be worth it as God blesses our friendships. Have a great day in the Lord, grace and peace…