There are “friends” that destroy each other, but a real friend sticks closer than a brother. Proverbs 18:24
The four of them met at church—in the middle school youth group. I’m not sure they would have been friends had their paths crossed any other way. A couple of jocks. A couple of nerds. A couple of musicians. A couple of jokers. One ladies’ man. (At least that’s what I’ve been told.) The only thing they all had in common, really, was youth group.
When I first started dating my husband, I was enthralled with the stories he shared of his early escapades with these three guys—from costume parties to choir retreats to summer mission trips to girlfriends. But I think my favorite story is the one where they put goldfish in the pastor’s glass of water right before the service started. The pastor didn’t notice the little swimmers until he went to take a sip right before his sermon. Watching with great expectation from the choir loft, the guys stifled any incriminating response as the pastor calmly concealed the glass from the congregation’s view. I’m not sure if the pastor ever identified the perpetrators, but I believe he had a good idea who they were.
When Greg, Ron, Sean, and Pete graduated from college, they decided to take a cross-country trip together to backpack into as many national parks as possible in seven weeks. Like most 22-year-olds, they probably thought they were invincible—until day 3 of a hike into the Grand Canyon. That’s when they discovered the seasonal spring where they planned to refill their water bottles had dried up, and they were out of water. With temperatures soaring upwards of 90-degrees, walking during the day would have been disastrous, perhaps deadly, without water. So they slept in the shade of rocks during the day and trekked back to civilization by moonlight. Thank God there was an Eagle Scout among them!
Greg, Ron, Sean, and Pete each went their separate ways after that trip—Hungary, China, Siberia, Tajikistan, Florida, Colorado, and Texas, to name a few—but they always stayed close. Before cell phones, they wrote letters. Now they talk freely, sometimes late at night to accommodate the time zone differences. There is always something to catch up on, there is always laughter, and each conversation ends with the words, “I love you brother.” The love and respect they manifest for one another reminds me of the relationship enjoyed by David and Jonathan, who were closer than blood brothers. (And Jonathan made David reaffirm his vow of friendship again, for Jonathan loved David as he loved himself. 1 Samuel 20:17)
I did not grow up with close friends like my husband did. I do not have funny stories about my teen years that are worth repeating. I do not talk and laugh and reminisce for hours on the phone on a regular basis with anyone. (Perhaps that is because I don’t really like talking on the phone!) But I am grateful that my husband has and does these things.
So when Greg started talking about a “reunion” with the guys to hike the national parks, I worried a little. After all, he isn’t a spring chicken anymore! Luckily, the guys planned like responsible 50-year-olds: four days in the national parks in Moab, Utah—with hotel accommodations. At least I wouldn’t have to worry about them running out of water!
Today marks day 2 of their trek through God’s creation. My prayer for Greg, Ron, Sean, and Pete is that Christ will nourish their spirits and strengthen their friendship as He draws them closer to Himself. I can’t help but praise God for giving these men youth group leaders during their formative years who encouraged spiritual friendships. After 30+ years together, the commonalities between them are now endless—and priceless.
Proverbs 27:17 reads, “As iron sharpens iron, so a friend sharpens a friend.” This is what Greg, Ron, Sean, and Pete do for each other. Yes—they are each awesome individuals in their own right, but as a group they are outstanding!
Greg called me this morning, and his voice was full of joy and excitement. Our conversation was brief—not only because I don’t like talking on the phone, but also because he had to get back to the guys. As I write, I find myself smiling—grateful and eagerly looking forward to Greg’s return and the stories he will tell me face-to-face. This reunion with his three best friends is good for Greg’s soul and good for our marriage. He is a better man because of his friends, and I am the beneficiary of that gift.
THE SONG THAT COMES TO MIND IS Friends (Are Friends Forever) by Michael W. Smith. Lyrics: “Friends are friends forever if the Lord’s the Lord of them.”