Just some early morning thoughts from me to you…
And the scripture was fulfilled that says, “Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness,” and he was called God’s friend. James 2: 23 (NIV)
Those who knew architecture referred to it as a Cape-Cod style house. It was located in one of the suburbs springing up outside the historic community of Farmington, Connecticut.
It was set in an eclectic assemblage of older homes, open fields, farm houses with a smattering of functional barns, and a new subdivision of houses popping up like weeds after a spring shower. Our Cape-Cod style house was modest, yet with just enough rooms to share to call it home for two adults and seven children, at least just long enough for the upcoming football season and part of the next summer before we moved again.
And as predictable as the sunrise before the school bus arrived each morning, a neatly-stacked supply of the daily newspaper—The Hartford Courant—bound with a hemp twine was deposited on the front porch of our modest home for delivery to the neighborhood. The stack stood as tall as your average seventh-grade neighborhood paperboy—me. Papers were then tri-folded and tucked to hold together for tossing and bagged in plastic when it was raining. The folded papers were loaded into the front basket of my re-furbished bicycle, as well as into the sack over my shoulder, and faithfully delivered each morning—including the one to the little old lady a quarter-mile away on the other side of the bridge.
Friday evening was collection time for my paper route and it was then—on my very first round of collections—that I learned a poignant lesson about finances and friends. For all of you who aspire one day to be paperboys or papergirls, remember this: when collecting on your paper route, avoid the area where your friends and the Good Humor ice cream truck are located—at least until you’ve had a chance to count how much you really have to spend on ice cream for one-and-all gathered.
It only took that one time for the lesson to sink in. Counting and recounting the money remaining from the payments, I finally realized that—despite a lot of new friends—I had dipped well beyond the profit I had earned that week, into what I owed the company for the cost of the newspapers.
No more Good Humor trucks on Fridays.
And so with that lesson in finances learned at the ripe-old-age of twelve, and with the newspaper budget now consistently being balanced each week thereafter, I also watched as another phenomenon began to unfold as a lot of my “friends” fell away. For a twelve-year-old boy, who starting out short on friends anyway having just moved into a new neighborhood, it was a painful, disappointing and confusing moment.
But we know that through all the ups-and-downs of friends and friendships—the pains are always outnumbered by the joys. The moments of support and understanding always outpace the moments of disappointments and the melting away of a few. And through the lessons of Good Humor trucks, paper-routes, businesses, burdens, laughter and sorrow, we learn that there will always be those who continue to emerge as forever friends to bless you for a lifetime.
Those friends you seem to pick right up with, after a long absence, as if you were never apart. Those who remain and walk alongside you—even when they see the worst in you. Friends who sacrifice for you when they really can’t afford to. Those who confront you when you should be, and who walk with you and lift you up when you fall and fail—sending you back out to try again. Friends who heal the broken places in your life—and then do it again and again. You may even be married to one like I am. Maybe you have a friend like the one in this story.
It’s the story of a leper who came to Jesus one day and asked to be made clean. A leper—like all the rest of his lot in those days—suffered not only from a physically deforming and painful disease, but also from the emotional scars of years of rejection and isolation in a leper colony. He endured the shame of having to ring a bell, if he would dare to venture out from the colony, to warn other “normal” people of his approach. No one wanted to see him—certainly no one wanted to touch him.
Yet there he stood before this would-be friend, asking to be healed. Jesus could have zapped him from a distance, so as not to have to get too close to the ugliness or stench of the disease. But He didn’t. Knowing the pain, and feeling the pain of that man’s life of isolation and rejection, Jesus reached out and touched him.
It was no doubt the first touch by anyone other than another leper. And in that moment, that friend—that God—healed not only the external physical scars of leprosy, but also the internal scars from years of rejection and hatred—layered over and over upon him simply because of a disease over which he had no control.
Looking for a friend like that, who you can take with you while collecting on your paper-route? He’s there in so many of those friends around us who have proven through the years that they are forever friends.
And He’s there in the person of Jesus Christ—who stands ready to walk with each of us, heal us, confront us and love us into the sunshine of a brand-new day now and throughout eternity.
Got a friend like that? Got Jesus as your friend? Make sure He is!
In His Name—Scott