I can remember back to 1950 when I was five years old. My first friend was Jackie Dominski. Jackie’s dad built a fort in his backyard that Jackie and I would play in. It was a lot of fun, as I recall it.
We lived on the same street, Syracuse, in Detroit.
I can still recall the day – even though it was 65 years ago – that Jackie walked down to my house to tell me something. I can still picture him telling me as we stood eye to eye on the sidewalk on a nice summer’s day.
In a very friendly tone, Jackie said, “My father got a new job and we have to move away. I can’t be your friend any more.”
I understood and said, “Good bye, Jackie.” Jackie turned around and walked back to his house. I can still picture him with his back to me walking down the street. I had just lost my first good, close friend.
Amazing, isn’t it, that I recall that day so well. Good friends are so important. They are the building blocks of our hearts, love, and strength. I think what I missed most back then was losing the joy of playing and having fun with Jackie in that rickety, wooden structure we called a fort.
I have had a lot of close and wonderful friends since then. And so fortunate for me, I still do, very precious friends with whom I’ve shared the deepest parts of my heart, only not in a rickety fort. Now it’s restaurants and accountability groups, over coffee or lunch. Lots of laughs and sometimes looks of exasperation. All encased in love, God’s love, now.
So why is it then, that as we mature, those early years still have such a bearing on us. I just had lunch this week with another guy, who in the past three years, I’ve only have had a few one-on-one lunches with. He’s a busy guy, yet the kind of guy you just want to get to know deeply and by whom you want to be known deeply. He’s a tender hearted, mature man of God who will enable you to grow in Christ’s love as you share laughter and life together. My friend, Norflette.
Norflette told me that he is taking another job on the other side of town. As Norflette was talking, my mind rushed years back and I thought to myself, “I’m having another Jackie Dominski experience. I don’t want this.”
It’s so hard to establish a good friendship. It takes time. Distance makes it difficult to keep that relationship growing. Yet, all I have to do is drive a little further now to have lunch with Norflette. I will surely miss his wonderful sermons, his love for the Lord, his enthusiastic praise of God as he leads worship. And with Norflette gone, we will miss his wonderful wife, Shenay. If one thought Norflette loved the LORD, you should meet Shenay. What a powerhouse of God’s wisdom and love she is.
As I think of my loss, my heart still breaks for a fellow I met in 1970 while in Long Bihn, Vietnam. We both happened to be walking outside my barracks one day. I had never seen him in our company area before. I struck up a conversation with him and he told me he was on temporary duty assignment. He was to be a liaison with other companies.
It was midday. Having nothing to do, I asked him to come down to the company lounge area, have a drink, and meet some of the guys. He said, “No.”
I asked him, “Why not?” His answer burned into my memory.
He calmly said, “I’ve been in country three months. The first month, I made a friend and he died. The second month I made another friend and he died. The third month I made another friend, and he died. I don’t want another friend.”
With that, he turned around and left our company area. I was speechless. I didn’t know how to answer him. I can still picture him walking away with his back to me in his green army fatigues. He had lost all his friends. How heart breaking that had to be.
Over the years, I have thought to myself, I should pray more regularly for him. Did he ever make a friend for himself after Vietnam? Has he spent decades in loneliness for fear of losing more friends?
At church service today, the LORD gave me an insight that lightened this load of a lost/changing friendship. When we lose a close friend, we can feel like we are treading water. The LORD helped me realize that He trusts us enough even when treading water that we can do the work he calls us to do. He has faith in us. I need to maintain my faith in Him. It brings to mind Peter walking on the turbulent waters of the Sea of Galilee. As long as Peter had faith in Christ, he had no trouble walking on turbulent waters.
Cherish your friends. Pray for our veterans. Be a friend. Walk on water with Christ.
Phil, what a wonderful tribute but more importantly a gentle push to trust God in shifting waters and to hold dear our friends. You are such an encourager and a bright spot in our journey. Blessings to you and Trina.
Phil, you are so kind. I love you thanks for your encouragement and friendship