So many faces line the road of my life. Most of them have shaped me in one way or another. There are some gems that I have had beautify my life. And there are those that I would like to forget. And there are the few that are always with me, no matter what.
I had a friend who will always be to me the shining example of honest, open love and friendship. It was weird to others because this friend was a boy and, at our age, boys and girls weren't just friends. It was weird to me because he was so cool and so good looking and smart and popular that I didn't have any clue why he would spend a bit of attention on me. Talking in later years, my mom said once that maybe it was because he felt like he was safe with me. I didn't want anything from him, while every other girl (or so it seemed) wanted to date him. Someone asked me once if I would ever go out with him. That was easy to answer. "No way! Are you kidding me? He breaks up with someone every other week...why would I trade our friendship for something that I know won't last?" So we ignored his romantic roller coaster and just hung out. Sunday afternoons climbing trees and catching snakes and riding my dirt bike. Junior high was a rough time for me, but he made it bearable. It didn't matter that I didn't dress "right" or care about the latest band or think anyone was "to die for." It (usually) didn't bother me if I got made fun of for my bookwormishness or lack of interest in sports or parties or whatever else was supposed to be important. He made it possible for me to not change. Because he was my friend no matter who was around. He cared about what I liked. He never made me feel weird or uncool. He always smiled at me when he passed me in the hall. I will never forget the time he was in the middle of a big group of boys, laughing and cutting up...it had been a miserable day for me, and it must have shown. We were going opposite directions and he simply said, "I'll catch up," to his buddies, turned around and walked down the hall with me, arm draped over my shoulder, just cutting jokes until I smiled. No big deal for him. He was just being a friend. To me, he was a life preserver, tossed into the waters of conformism just as the circling sharks began to smell blood.
You never know what your kindness may do for someone. I couldn't have put it into words then. I just knew I was glad he was my friend. Now I can see that he showed me hope and gave me strength because he accepted me as I was. When girls mentioned things I could improve, things that guys would notice, I thought of him. He noticed me without any improvement. When a boy I didn't really know asked me out and people pressured me to accept because I'd never had a boyfriend (and how would I ever know what I wanted in a husband if I didn't date), I thought of him. We were friends and that was enough to show me things I liked and didn't like in a guy. I looked at him and saw someone who knew me and liked me. And if there was one in my small school, surely, someday when I was ready, out in that great big world somewhere, there would be another.
Then came high school. And things changed. He made some bad decisions. He started going down a path that made me afraid for him. We hung out less and less. The people he did spend time with changed. He still was my friend, but...so much more distant. I tried to talk to him. Smile, nod, pat my head and laugh off my concerns. But his eyes were different. The carefree boy was gone. Heaviness had settled in. Sin had taken root and there was nothing I could do to help, especially since he didn't want any help. Convincing himself that he was having the time of his life, he dug deeper and deeper. The last time I saw him...I remember...the smile was so familiar, but it didn't come from his heart anymore. And his eyes were nearly dead. It broke my heart.
Nearly 15 years have passed since that day. I've tried to stay in touch off and on, but (as you can imagine) my efforts have not been returned. Still, I have prayed. I did all that I could and nothing could stop my friend from the path he chose. But with God, all things are possible, and death and judgment have not yet come. My friend moved hours from his family, led his own life and made more decisions that ended poorly. Still, I prayed. Send a note, call on his birthday, pray every time his face comes to mind. Less and less news about him as the years go by, but enough to keep him in the back of my mind. Enough that every now and then, I was prompted to pray just for him.
Not long ago, he moved back home. Someone in his family is one of my many facebook friends. Then came the cancer. And this family member has followed my blog and told him my story. "...His heart is soft..." was part of what she told me. And everything fell into place. I needed it just then. Another moment when I wanted to ask God why, and He showed me. He can use all things for His glory and His purpose! I don't know my friend's spiritual state as I write this. But that family member will read it. And this message can be passed on: I love you, my dear brother. I pray for you still. God brought you into my life to shape me, to give me a way to resist the world at a time when it was pushing hard against me. I am willing to have this disease in exchange for the rescue of your precious soul. If cancer, treatments, fear, pain, loss...if these things that I am dealing with reach your heart and point you to Christ, it is a battle I am happy to fight. This time I have the life preserver that you need. I know the Life Preserver that you need, and He is with me every step of the way. Won't you run to Him now, cast yourself at His feet and be forgiven? I pray we meet again. I pray we will spend eternity as friends.