Sunday, 5 July 2015

Never found a friend quite like him again

I hadn't seen him in quite awhile. Slightly older, a little greyer, but my Dad's friend still had the same gentle voice as I had remembered. Time seemed to stop as we talked outside the front of the hardware store. We were only steps away from the same lumber yard where years earlier - before I was of school age - my Dad and I would visit almost every Tuesday, where he would catch up with his friends.

It didn't take long for us to start reflecting on things past...and the one person we had in common - my Dad. It doesn't happen as often as it used to, but I felt tears welling up when he said, "I still miss Don. He was 12 years older than me, but I've never found a friend quite like him again." Sixteen years after my dad died and I had just learned something special about him! I thought the bank containing memories of my Dad was as full as it was ever going to be.

I had never heard someone describe my Dad in that way - as a person whose friendship he's "never been able to find again". Dad and I were just starting to become friends when God called him home so suddenly and unexpectedly on April 30, 1999. So, I got a sense of what this man was saying as he described their friendship. He continued to tell me how they were always on the 'same page'. They looked at life through the same lens, and they were able to identify with one another. I saw, in that moment, the gift of friendship that this man had received through the knowing of my Dad...one that I have never been able to fully know.

I saw Jesus that day. I saw him weeping at the grave of his friend Lazarus. I saw him moved and troubled by the sorrow that was being expressed by Lazarus' friends. Jesus' humanity allowed him to feel the brokenness of this world that sin has caused, and he felt the impact of death's cold hand upon their lives. I heard him call to his friend, "Lazarus, come out." And, I heard him command, "Unbind him and let him go." John 11:1-45. And, death released his friend.

As life goes on, and death steals our loved ones away, we may never find the same type of friendships again here on earth. But Jesus has been there. He knows what it means to lose a friend. He has cried and I believe he cries with us when we mourn lost friendships. And, when we find new friends and laugh together, I believe Jesus laughs and smiles like proud parents would smile as they watch their children laugh and play with new found friends.

This morning, while getting ready to attend our worship service, I was singing, "What a friend we have in Jesus." Unknowingly, I would again hear this same song quoted by our pastor as he described how John Scriven, the author of this song, penned the words after losing not one, but two fiancĂ©es just days prior to the weddings. After losing two special people in his life, he was still able to say:

"Have we trials and temptations?
Is there trouble anywhere?
We should never be discouraged;
Take it to the Lord in prayer.
Can we find a friend so faithful
Who will all our sorrows share?
Jesus knows our every weakness;
Take it to the Lord in prayer."

If you've ever lost a friend whose friendship you feel you've been unable to replace, know that Jesus' friendship is greater than any earthly friendship will ever be. Take comfort, we'll be separated from our friends who have died in Christ for only a short time. Our separation is not permanent.

And, one day when Jesus returns, I'll hear him say to my Dad, "Don, come out. Unbind him and let him go." And, we'll be able to catch up...I'll ask him to take me to his favourite lumber yard...and we'll hang out...maybe go out for a chocolate dipped DQ style ice cream cone. 'Cause I'm sure if ice cream cones had been invented when John wrote Revelation, he would have included it in his description of The Golden City, The New Jerusalem!

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