As you have seen in my previous two posts, I spent the month of July on the road. Some of this time was working in America. Though I am worn out from my time (been sick the past few days from exhaustion), I was blessed by several life-giving “encounters” with dear friends during each of my stops.
One of the themes I come back to time and again in writing on this blog is that of friendship. Friendship, strong, life-giving, mutually committed friendship, is one of true beauties in life and one we rarely think about. A need for friendship is admittedly heightened in my life since I am single. However, I am confident that friendship should play a vital role in every emotionally healthy and growing person; single or married.
It is said that if you die with 2-3 truly good friends, you are blessed. By this standard, I am blessed beyond measure. Not only do I have a solid group of men whom are open, honest, and vulnerable with me in every area of life, I have many such relationships which have lasted the test of time.
Boone Benton has been a dear friend since birth, as my next-door neighbor (his parents still live next to mine). He has been my first and most consistent mentor over the years. David Moon slept on the bunk above me for three years (and this was AFTER college). Though we don’t get to see each other as much as I would like, I still consider him to be as close as a brother. Pat Ku has lived with me in three phases of life and on two different continents. I can’t image my past 20 years without his friendship. The list could go on.
As I sit here in my favorite Asian coffeehouse thinking back over my time in America, this theme of friendship keeps flooding my mind. Though I had more than the four “encounters of friendship” this summer, there were four such encounters which were indicative of four values essential to deep and long-lasting friendship.
In this post, I will share about the first of these “four encounters of friendship” and the element of true friendship of which each encounter was indicative.
My first encounter was in Palm Springs, CA with my dear friend Rankin Wilbourne and his wonderful family.
Rankin and I met during summer of 2005. We were both single men seeking to invest our lives well for the sake of the kingdom of God. Through a work opportunity, we were both part of a delegation which traveled throughout Asia for two weeks.
We were instantly drawn into a deep friendship. We were both single and fighting through some difficult situations in dating. We were both weighing future occupational shifts. At that time, he was in Chattanooga, TN and I was in Atlanta, GA, but both of us knew change was coming.
Within two years, Rankin was in LA and I back living in Asia. Though we were called in very different directions, our understanding of each other, our motivations, our hearts, our future dreams and aspirations were (and continue to be) closely aligned. Since our first meeting in summer 2005, we have been able to spend significant time with each other at least once each year. Definitely one of the highlights of my year every year.
This summer I was able to see Rankin (and his wonderful family) for a few days in Palm Springs, CA. They were kind enough to invite me to a family time for a few days prior to getting back to LA. We did pool time with the kids, played some golf, and even had a surprisingly intense hike one day. In a word, it was refreshing.
From my friendship with Rankin and my time with him in California last month, I’m grateful for the value of UNDERSTANDING in friendship. Rankin understands me. He knows my heart and calling. He knows my sin and vices. In all this, Rankin UNDERSTANDS and ACCEPTS me as I am.
The Bible tells us that God literally knows the number of hairs on our head (Matthew 10:30) and the number of days for which we shall live (Psalm 139:16). Our faith is built on a God who intimately knows us, perfectly understands us, and yet completely accepts us, through the sacrificial work of Christ on the cross.
This is massive. . . God understands and knows EVERYTHING about us and still unconditionally accepts us whom are His children. Amazing.
As is the case in our relationship with God, one of the elements present in any true friendship (and really any relationship) is this element of UNDERSTANDING. To be known and to be loved is among our greatest desires as humans. Being with Rankin (and Morgen) gives me a tremendous sense that I am truly understood and absolutely accepted.
I am grateful for a God who knows me perfectly and accepts me unconditionally. In spending time with Rankin this summer, I am grateful for friendship which aspires towards the same quality; to understand your friend, to accept your friend, and help point them towards their Savior, Christ Jesus, who is our ultimate fountainhead of intimacy, understanding, acceptance, and redemption.
(Over the next 2-3 weeks, I will write about the remaining three “encounters of friendship” and the lessons on friendship for which they were indicative.)
As is always the case, I would love to hear your thoughts and comments on this post!