Today, I am thankful for friendship in general, and for my friends specifically.
I am currently on a plane leaving meetings in Bangkok heading back to my home. The meetings went well and the short trip was worth the time and energy to get there. One strange thing, I guess, is that yesterday was my birthday. I went the entire day and none of the 20 or so people at the meeting knew it was my birthday. Actually, the only person to wish me a “happy birthday” was the Thai lady that cleaned my hotel room. Didn’t really know how to respond to that one, so I uttered some clumsy words of thanks back (though aware that she couldn’t understand me), while I’m sure my quizical expression was painful for her to see.
Being alone in a country where no one knows me (and I don’t even know the language) has brought me to a point of extreme gratitude for one thing in particular. . . friendship. The Lord has blessed me immensely for my entire life with wonderful friendships.
I am still close with a few friends from both elementary and high school, which is exceedingly rare these days. Above that, there are even more friends from that time period where I know beyond the shadow of a doubt that if I were back in the States we could pick things up exactly where we left off years ago. Old friends
, such as Ashton Cheatham and the James’ (Kirkland and Cummings), I miss and look forward to the day when time and space will allow an opportunity to reunite. Many have wished me well over Facebook these past two days and I have enjoyed each one. Makes me feel like I’m still roaming the halls of Henderson High School!
I am still close with several guys from college. This is actually an understatement. Four of these men form a life-time accountability/coaching/encouragement group with whom we have consistently met for eight years now (I will talk about this in a future post). Three other college friends, Sam Shin, Yuh Tseng, and Eugene Kim (Sam and Yuh are college and HS friends), flew all the way from America to Hong Kong last year to spend my 40th birthday with me. They were on flights for almost 40 combined hours to celebate this monumental birthday with me for a mere 35 hours on the ground. All of these relationships are as strong as ever, inspite of the miles between us. I am confident they will remain tight for the remainder of our days on earth.
In addition to the time in Hong Kong last year, five different groups of friends threw me five different parties in four different cities (in three different countries) for my 40th birthday. Most of these times were surprises and were incredibly thoughtful and fun. Patrick Ku (with the help of a few others) threw one in Atlanta. Aaron and Hayley Milam surprised me in Hong Kong (in addition to the other party). Travis and Sonya Todd did the same in my old home in Asia. Wonderful life-long friends cared for me above and beyond the normal call of friendship during this special birthday.
I am blessed beyond measure with the friendships here in this region of Asia, the place I have called home for 11 years now. On Tuesday, Beth and Michael Gregory (read their blog. . . it’s great!) threw me a party in my current home city and hosted many other close friends, both local Asians and foreigners like myself. This was the second year in a row the Gregorys have done this (last year a surprise). Both years Beth has made my FAVORITE desert in the world, Caramel Cake, and it has been as good as my grandmother’s was growing up. This is not an easy task anywhere in the world, but especially here in Asia. Truly a labor of love, which speaks volumes to me beyond the significance of a mere baked good.
Often people ask me about being single and living alone in Asia. I feel most people view my relational status as if it’s a painful, deeply embedded virus of which I have not been able to shake. Honestly, I get confused and frustrated over this myself from time to time. Self pity is a temptation and an easy escape. However, it is during these times, and many other of life’s low points, the Lord seems to always bring me back to the blessing of frienship. . . lasting and true. This always pulls me back from despair to thankfulness and deep gratitude.
It is often said that if a man dies with 2-3 true friends, then he is truly blessed. By this measure, I consider myself among the most blessed people on the face of the earth. I’m as serious as I can be when I say this.
The Bible has great examples of friendship. David and Jonathan (1 Samuel 18:1-3). Ruth and Naomi (the Book of Ruth). Christ Himself goes on to ascribe ultimate value to the word “friend” in John 15:13-15a. . .
“Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you. No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends . . .”
Today, I am grateful beyond what my feeble words can express for those I am fortunate enough to call friends. Christ has given me meaning and purpose in calling me (and all believers) His “friend”. Additionally, I have several friends in my life whom I would gladly lay down my life for and I am certain they would do the same for me. This is truely one the absolute joys of my life.
For those of you I have mentioned here, and for the others whom I have not (you know who you are), thank you from the bottom of my heart. Christ has given me life, purpose, and joy. However, He has used my friendships, both old and new, to express life, purpose, and true joy to me day in and day out. Friendship has been, and will continue to be, a vital part of my personal pilgrimage in the Christian life.
For this, I am eteranally grateful for my friends on this, yet another birthday, especially in light of celebrating it alone in a Bangkok hotel room (and at Krispy Kreme) far away from friends and family.
I love you all. . . thanks for your friendship and the the subsequent joy and life with which you have blessed me!