Monday, June 14, 2010
Softening the Fall - A Real Friend
Last week my friends at Kingdom Bloggers wrote about the vertical relationship with God through prayer. This week they are going to write about the horizontal relationship they have with the people of God. That's what the cross is a symbol of: relationship with God and man.
I have written about friendship many times over at Fire & Grace. I have covered topics from "how many friends do we need," to "what it means to be a friend." I wrote about the "types of friends we can have." I have written about Jesus, the friend that sticks closer than a brother. I even taught friendship to 3 men's group at a church I beleonged to. Interestingly, I didn't pick the topic.
If we look in the Bible we can see many different relationships that one might call a friendship: The Good Samaritan, Paul and Barnabas, Timothy and Paul, and of course, David and Jonathan.
As much as I love my online friends here at Kingdom Bloggers - and I do know a lot about them, their struggles, their joys, their successes, their heart, and in some cases their spouses - I have only met Joyce. Dave and I talk on the phone a lot - we pray a lot too. Tony and I talk once or twice a week in addition to chatting online about everything from the Celtics winning the World Championship over the Lakers this year, to prayer for things we struggle with. I do love these folks. Each week we have a private Facebook message with a few prayer requests, topics for the blog, and some wise cracking.
In life I have had all sorts of friends - levels and depths of friendship - that are too numerous to count. I had neighborhood friends, school friends, family friends, friends of my spouse, people I met on missions, college friends, church friends, work friends, and acquaintances I called friends. My Facebook page is filled with friends from every era of my life; even the virtual one.
I do have real flesh and blood friends. Every few months my family and I get together with Gigi. I have known her since I was in Kindergarten (1964). We reconnected on Facebook, and the rest is good history. I have another friend Scott, we met on a construction site in 1986, and we've been friends over the years and the miles ever since. We see each other every year when his wife runs the Boston Marathon. We have prayed for each other, watched kids be born, grow up, go to college, get married, and have kids. It's a lot of history.
Four years ago, I moved to greater Boston for a job. I had previously lived on Cape Cod, MA for 21 years. That was home - where my friends were. It was also a place where my girls were born, where I failed more than once, was betrayed, was attacked by the Devil, walked the beach, and made the most important friendship outside of my marriage. Instead of telling you what a good friend is, or what the Bible says about friendship, I want to tell you the story of my friend Antonio Carlos. He is my Jonathan, and I am his David.
In 1998 I had a prophetic word about going to the nations - flying here, flying there. It was crazy to me at the time. HERE is how that turned out. One day in 1999 I was at a Salvation Army chapel service. It was me and my family, the pastor and his wife, a man in a wheelchair and a homeless Brazilian gal. The pastor sent his wife down the block to see if there was someone that could interpret for the Brazilian woman so they could help her.
Pastor Mike and I prayed for the man in the wheelchair. My wife took the girls home, and I arranged a ride home with Mike and Carol. She returned with one of the Brazilian pastors from the Baptist Church. He interpreted for the woman, and when he was done we all started to leave.
Then I heard the voice of God. "Pray for him."
"I'm going home Lord." I replied.
I relented, and asked Mike and Carol if I could have a few minutes to pray for the Brazilian Pastor. I approached this man and said, "Could I share a few things with you?"
"Yes, brother." he said in his Portuguese accent.
I prayed for him, and God showed up so powerfully that we were both amazed - surprised even. It was so exciting that I agreed to meet him the next day for lunch. Over the next few weeks he introduced me to lots of folks in his community and also arranged ministry engagements all over southern New England and then Brazil. Wow!
We prayed together, laughed together, confessed our sins to each other, told some off color jokes, ate together, ministered side-by-side as he interpreted for me. It was really amazing! I introduced him to some of my ministry friends, and he was invited to preach, and eventually join an American church as an associate pastor. He took missionaries to Brazil, Columbia and Israel as well leading local outreaches.
When I returned from Brazil in 1999, my ex-wife filed for divorce. I'll skip the gory parts, but there are no winners in a divorce - ever. The church abandon me, and so did most of my friends. My place in the front row seat became a seat in the back row. At my own church, it was suggested that I don't come back until everything was resolved.
Within weeks, I had one Christian friend left - Antonio Carlos.
Eventually I met Mary Anne, and he was the best man at the wedding and is now a long time family friend.
Our relationship is tougher now that I live so far away. He also travels a lot. He has come on some hard times; the church he was at closed, trouble with INS, his dad died in Brazil a few weeks ago, and now he has a citizenship hearing in May of 2011. I spoke to him last night, we are getting together this weekend to enjoy to reminisce, eat sushi, and pray.
The depth of our freindship is best described in the following words. One day as he and I were talking about the crucible I had been through. (He was in Brazil for the worst part of it.) I asked him, "Where was Jonathan when David fell?" He said, "I was in Brazil, but I am here now."