More often than not, on Monday mornings you will find me teeing up a golf ball on some random golf course in Northeast Florida or Southeastern Georgia. I didn’t always play golf alone – I’ve been blessed with some very excellent friends over the years who have been my regular playing partners. These men (and women) were (and continue to be) blessings to me. Although I have moved away from many of them, we remain close, speak regularly (and often), and try to get together so we can tee it up or simply re-engage in each other’s lives. But for now I play alone.
While alone on a golf course a person has the opportunity to think…and think…and, well, THINK. During my most recent round on Laurel Island, Georgia I spent the majority of time thinking about those whom I consider my friends. I’m not defining “friend” in Facebook terms – that is, “an acquaintance from the past (or present) whom I am willing to share bits and pieces of information (that I control) regarding my life and family.” No, I am defining “Friend” in a more classical and intimate way: “A person whom one knows and with whom one has a bond of mutual affection.”
What do my “Friends” share in common? Here are a few connecting threads I discovered in my pondering: 1-They all share a passionate and dependent faith in Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior; 2-They each have been blessed with a supportive and loving wife (or husband) who they love with a selfless and sacrificial love; 3-They are tremendous fathers (or mothers) who provide for their children – physically, emotionally, and spiritually; 4-They serve the church with patience, care, and tremendous skill; 5-They are ongoing students of the Word and the World; They are life-long learners; 6-They know how to laugh (at themselves) and with others; and 7-They are humble.
That’s quite a list of qualities and attributes! Not all of my friends are pastors (and thank the Lord for the that!). BUT each man (or woman) that I considered share these 7 qualities. And what I have found is that when the roads of life intersect and my friends meet each other they see these qualities in each other. In what seems like an instant my friends from different corners of my life become friends with each other.
Martin Luther in a Sermon dated March 9, 1522 stated: “Let us, therefore, let us act with fear and humility, cast ourselves at one another’s feet, join hands with each other, and help one another. I will do my part, which is no more than my duty, for I love you even as I love my own soul. for here we battle not against pope or bishop, but against the devil [cf. Eph.6:12], and do you imagine he is asleep? He sleeps not, but sees the true light rising, and to keep it from shining into his eyes he would like to make a flank attack, – and will succeed, if we are not on our guard” (LW Vol. 51 p.73).
The inter-connectedness of my life with my friends rests upon a mutual faith in Jesus Christ that is expressed in humility towards God and towards each other! As I stood alone on the tee box I was struck by that simple but profound truth. I began to catalog in my brain some of those simple words that expressed such humility and care: “I am protective of you, my brother…”, “I wanted to make sure you were mending following your surgery,”, “I prayed for you today…” , “I was thinking about you today…how are you doing?” Phone calls, text messages, and emails were playing out in my head. Christian friendship is most notably expressed in humility and placing the other above oneself. Christian friendship is concerned about the well-being of the other and troubles over the attacks that the world, the flesh, and the devil may send our way. As Luther so aptly stated, “Let us, therefore with fear and humility, cast ourselves at one another’s feet, join hands with each other, and help one another.” This is precisely what my friends do and, I pray, what I do for them!
While I worked my way around Laurel Island Golf Links I realized, based on my definition and understanding of “Friend” or “Friendship,” I have limited cadre of those who surround me… but what a circle it is! For my friends who read this (and you know who you are) – our phone conversations, text messages and GIFs, and alas, the real joy we have when we are in each other’s presence is a gift to me. Although I have taken to playing Golf alone these days, I’m really not alone. My friends (and their humble care) are always with me. Truly, I am thankful!