Sam is a friend of the sort whose friendship you cherish. His friendship is one of a handful of friendships God has used to shape and sustain me, to fill my life with joy. In some ways Sam and I are as different as night and day, but he is that Proverbs friend who sticks closer than a brother.
Becky and I met Sam and Debbie the day we were introduced to the congregation of First Presbyterian Church, Menominee, Michigan, as the new pastor and his wife. We had no idea how much time we would spend with Sam and Debbie over the course of the next five years. The four of us built a youth ministry; First Presbyterian had never seen such a youth group, and, yes, our own kids were a part of its success.
First Presbyterian in Menominee was our first pastoral call out of seminary. I had served the church in other capacities for 15 years – west coast churches, large churches, sophisticated people churches. First Presbyterian was a 300-member church in an old paper mill town on the shores of Green Bay in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. It seemed like a long way from anywhere. There were times during our five years in Menominee when I felt as if I had been sent to Siberia.
But there was the youth group and the Thursday night adult Bible Study – they’d never had Bible studies at First Presbyterian Church. Some of the good people in that little town came to faith in Jesus Christ during those five years.
I survived and sometimes thrived in Menominee, Michigan, thanks in no small part to God’s gift of a friendship with Sam. We talked a lot, and Sam encouraged me, and occasionally rebuked me, and often exhorted me to run the race with all I had to give. Sam will tell you that our friendship was good for him, as well.
I haven’s seen Sam in over 15 years, but we talk on the phone every couple of months. It’s always a good conversation, and rarely about the good old days. We talk about what God is doing in our lives today. Occasionally we talk about some business, because Sam still works for a bank in Menominee and helps Becky and me with financial planning.
I am going to go see Sam next week. On election day – I have already mailed in my absentee ballot – I will fly into Green Bay on an early flight and then drive north for an hour or so to get to Menominee. I’ll take the late flight home the next day.
Sam and I have some financial business to attend to, and I am glad we can do it face to face. Mostly, though, I am looking forward to spending a little over 24 hours with a one of those friends God has used over the years to shape and sustain me, to fill my life with joy.
I will be at Sam’s and Debbie’s on election night. I suppose the television may be on and we may talk a little bit about, or even mourn, the election results, but I doubt if we will pay very much attention to them. Some things are just more important. We may talk a little bit about the good old days, but mostly we will talk about what God is doing in our lives, a conversation seasoned with encouragement, and maybe even a little rebuke and exhortation.
We settled into life in Menominee on the shore of Green Bay in 1993. We’ve had three two-term presidents since then. Terror now holds our world in its grip as we had no way of knowing in 1993. Technology amazes us with gadgets and inventions we could not imagine 23 years ago – they were still using rotary phones when we first arrived in Menominee. The Packers have won two Super Bowls. Sam has been my friend the entire time.
Elections are important. They have consequences, intended and otherwise. What happens next Tuesday matters. As much as we would like to dismiss it all, we cannot.
But I don’t need to watch the returns come in next Tuesday night or listen to the pundits drone on while we wait for one of the candidates to declare victory. It would be a waste of time to be watching television when two good friends who haven’t seen each other in 15 years could be catching up on what God is doing in our lives.
A man of many companions may come to ruin,
but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother. Proverbs 18:24
See you Sunday