This week-end we had an experience that we have been looking forward to for the last several months or so. I received a call from one of my closest childhood friends – we virtually grew up together – that he was going to be in town to present a paper at a conference downtown. We went to elementary school, Cub scouts and a host of other activities together when we were young. Chris was, and is, a great guy. He was smart – very smart – and always was at or near the head of the class.
Back when we were young, we would stay eat each other’s homes on Friday evenings and when we were at his house, we would get to play ping pong down in the basement. That was always special as I loved the game but we didn’t have a table in our home. And even during the week, we would have dinner together as our respective mothers made us feel welcome.
His younger sister, Kathy, was in the same grade as my brother, Doug, so we also had in common. But our lives did have differences. I would go to the office and help my father by typing correspondence for him while Chris concentrated more on homework and making sure that his work was pretty much flawless. I also cared about wonderful grades but for some reason I didn’t have to work as hard to understand most of the material we were being taught and the priority was helping Dad get his business off the ground.
Chris always seemed to have a great idea of what he wanted to do when he grew up. Anthropology and archeology were always at the top of the list, along with math, while I was more interested in business and running companies. So there wasn’t any competition between us – just two friends who shared many years enjoying each other – eventually realizing that we would take different paths for our careers and our lives.
In fact, we both attended the same undergraduate school, the University of Illinois at Chicago (UICC). But neither one of us realized that we were both attending there and never touched base. Chris went on to follow his heart and earned his advanced degrees – including a doctorate – and spent his career teaching courses in anthropology and archeology at the university level. He realized his dream and has become a world renowned expert in a field that has interested him since the time he was a little boy.
I also followed my path – business and then, eventually, seminary. We have both enjoyed our opportunities to learn in our respective fields and when Chris called to let us know that he would be in Indy this past week-end, I was thrilled. Even though Janet remembers Chris from grammar school, she never formally met him. Chris and I had several phone calls in advance of our getting together. He was in town to attend a conference and listen to papers presented in areas of study that hold his interest in the field of academia. In fact, he was asked to present a paper this past Saturday morning.
I’ll spare you the details but it was a wonderful visit. We had Chris to the house, picked up a pizza and spent hours catching up. It was like continuing a conversation that we started 55 years ago. His mannerisms are still the same as is his pattern of speech and the things that interest him. Both Janet and I were fascinated to hear him speak of his passions. So much of it was from a perspective that is different from anything that I have ever known.
I can’t even imagine what it would be like to be on archeological “digs” around the world. Discovering new things and conducting research for years upon years – becoming a world class scientist in a very special area of study. I think that Chris found our lives equally interesting. He was thrilled to hear about our family and some of the work that I have done in my career. He was, and continues to be, a humble man – enjoying life’s simple pleasures without being overly impressed by the ways that others order their lives.
In short, he was a joy to be around, even if we only had one evening. As I said, it was just as if we were continuing a conversation that we started a long time ago. Sure, we both look a little older but other than that, our individual character traits and idiosyncrasies remain unchanged. Our verse for this evening has to do with the way people can do things, good or bad, throughout their lives as a result of the way we did things when we were young. In the book of Mark, the author tells us, in Mark 9:21, “Jesus asked the boy’s father, “How long has he been like this?” “From childhood,” he answered.”
In this story, Jesus heals a boy who has had an issue for years. But the point remains the same, in that many times we are known by the way we have been since childhood. My encouragement this evening is that Jesus created us and had a plan in mind for each of us. Not only the way we look, but the way we act and the professions that we engage in. My prayer is that you will become all that you were designed to be and that you will rest in the knowledge that God created you for a specific purpose. Some of us, like Chris, have known this as far back as we can remember. Others, like myself, took a circuitous route to get where we were supposed to go. Either way, Jesus rejoices in our success. Have a great day in the Lord, grace and peace…