Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Good night, Friend

After the first couple footfalls hit the prairie path yesterday, I should have known that I, we, were in for an adventure.  Part of me was eager for exactly this, the unplanned nature of it, to get away from my own thoughts, to actually see the sun's slant through purple flowers, the playfulness of school-aged boys running up and down the length of lush green grass in a yard where they had grown.  See, the temptation is to make this blog nostalgic in nature, letting it ooze with emotion.  But I dare not fall, because what I mean to say holds way more weight than nostalgia, holds my heart.

I sit here in Caribou feeling like a real writer, carving out time for just this purpose.  The road ahead is long, treacherous even, and I think on it with a chai latte in hand.  More than my single path though, I think of the people I've met along the way, the ones who are soon to leave, or whose presence in my life is changing for better or worse as we speak.  Fear threatens to incapacitate me, as I sit here, drinking my latte.  First world problems?  No, for life cannot be summed up in a hierarchy of problems, comparisons of whose are worse, whose are life-altering.  All problems are life-altering; we just remain unaware, living our lives, sipping our lattes, as the world spins madly on.  Yes, I did steal that last line from a Weepies' lyric.

Back to the prairie path...Maggie and I began our journey on a well-beaten path.  We knew the way to town, by heart, with our eyes closed.  The unfamiliar lake called out, enticing, asking us to step off the path so comfortable underfoot.  Then ensued a beautiful stroll around the lake--the water still, subtle, unmoving as we passed.  Neighborhoods outlined the streets, the uneven sidewalks thrown up by tree roots and time.

And then we were lost.  I mean grandly lost.  Direction became irrelevant as we headed left, up, south, east.  Nothing behind the word anymore.  Meandering across the streets, we embraced the feeling, of not knowing.  The trees overhead promised refuge from the sun, but no technology could point us back to Wheaton.  We had no phone in tow, no internet.  No watch.  Timelessness.  This was a somewhat scary feeling but precious, for we walked together, carrying the fire.  Carrying the fire, we walked, we ran.

My friend James is leaving Wheaton.  This is his last semester.  And I'm guessing he feels somewhat like the lost duo from the prairie path, meandering, trying to find his way in a land unyielding.  Only unlike Maggie and I, he goes physically alone into the unknown.  So James, I wanted to use this blog as a tribute to you, to who you've been in my life, to who you will be.
I have never met anyone quite like you, someone who I felt picked my life up by the middle and lugged it forward, over your shoulder like a fireman, unwilling to let go.  Constantly supportive, unconventionally honest.  Your eyes speak of adventure, of a life filled with more than books, more than schedules, more than artificial.  Being around you has made me realize that we experience God in different ways, different ways that are important to distinguish, because if we don't, we miss the heart of God.  I see the Lord in the commonplace, the everyday, in a cup of coffee, in a smile hidden beneath a tear-stricken face.  God shows up for you in the mountains, a stronghold amidst a rock cliff, a security hold like a standing belayer.  And I praise Him for being so vast yet so all-encompassing.  We meet Him most strongly along varying paths in our road, confusing times, the more shallow or the deep woods.
The other day when we ended a bittersweet conversation, you signed off "good night, friend."  Friend.  We should meditate on that word more often.  James, because of you, this word means redemption to me.  Loyalty.  A sacredness. The heart-wrenching confusion that threatened to strip me of all things good freshman year swallowed up that word for me because of its misuse, its deliberate abuse.  You are my friend.  The crossroads where we met was covered in dead trees, the path tangled by entrapments and threats from the whispering woods.  And when I look back to that time of my life, I only see a couple men of Christ.  One of them was you, with a green jacket and an orange backpack.  Smiling.  Present.

I promise that this picture of you is a memory, a perception of reality that isn't quite right.  However, the night we spent reading through Matthew, crying out to our Savior, is more than a memory.  It is forever engrained, etched into my cognitive capacities.  Because the Lord was among us.  And I'm nothing but grateful.

As you look toward the future, the next step of the present with fear and trembling, place these emotions not into the air of the cold woods or the tallest mountain but into the upturned hands of Christ.  When your soul becomes weary, burdened with the weight of the world, return to Authority, the ferocious and tender Son of Man.

The last thing I have to say, James, is most important.  Ironically, it's not even mine to say, not original, and you've heard it before.  But I need you to remember it when you can't seem to remember anything else.  I need you to remember as you go, when you look up at the starry sky and feel so small, insignificant, this you need to know--

                               not all who wander are lost.

And just for the sake of coherent endings, completion of circles, Maggie and I eventually found our way back to Wheaton.  More is at stake for you.  But then, you wouldn't have it any other way.  That, my friend, is heart.  Thank you for showing it to a world, a wilderness with nothing left save the dark.

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