This week I spent a few days with a friend who had some work to do in a nearby town. He and his wife are preparing to move there to start a food business and to do church ministry. They are building a house there and are also establishing an agricultural enterprise to supplement their food business. My friend and I have been meeting regularly for mutual encouragement during the last several years and we know each other relatively well. But going to help him with his work for an extended period of time was a larger commitment to our relationship.
I did it because I appreciate his friendship and because we share a common desire to learn and grow in our personal lives and ministries. He has been a big support to my efforts in Second Wind Ministries as he has also been willing to learn from the knowledge and experience that I have acquired over the years. Recently he started work on a Doctor of Ministry degree program in which I have encouraged him and from which I have also learned new things.
But committing myself to spend an extended time with him and to work as an assistant to him in his world was a kind of spiritual discipline for me. I did it because I wanted to help and encourage him and I wanted to submit myself to whatever would be required of me in that relationship for that time. It took me out of my own comfort zone of independent living and forced me to be the dependent and the helper. It turned out to be a very valuable experience in a variety of ways.
For one thing, I came to appreciate again the wonder of the kind of friendship that God calls us to in which “iron sharpens iron” (Proverbs 27:17). Besides the fun of enjoying each other’s personalities, we discussed personal and theological issues in a way that encouraged greater self-discipline and commitment to what’s important. We shared Scripture and theological ideas and also prayed for one another. And we worked together — me helping him with his new orchard/garden to the point of planting quite a number of trees and preparing everything for better development. I also met a number of people who were his acquaintances and friends in the town where he and his wife will be living.
It is refreshing and therapeutic in a variety of ways at times to leave one’s normal routine to live and work with others in another context. I found it spiritually and emotionally refreshing to travel into another beautiful part of our world to breath its air and to try to appreciate its unique physical and cultural features. I also learned a lot about another industry which I discovered is much more profound and technical than I had ever imagined. And I enjoyed the physical demands of the work associated with planting fruit trees and caring for them.
Among the people we encountered I had the privilege of meeting a couple who are among my buddy’s dearest elderly friends. They have meant much to him and also to the community in which they have lived for 50 years or more. Though this elderly couple has lived and served in professional capacities in their community I was impressed by the material simplicity of their lives. Their home is spacious but modest and it offers a nice view of the river valley. The larger yard has a garden and a variety of fruit trees. But it is very obvious that this couple’s greatest joy has been in serving God and people. While we visited with them I learned a little about their respective journey’s. I was impressed by the evidence of God’s grace in their lives through their faith stories, their interest in people, and their hospitality. Just being with them made me realize what a wonderful heritage I have through my own journey of faith in Christ and how much I want our lives as a couple to reflect these same values of grace and hospitality.
Besides serving my friend and enjoying the generous hospitality that he provided I came to realize anew what a precious and delicate thing it is to live and work together in Christian fellowship. I learned again that we grow to appreciate friendship when we are willing to listen and yield to one another and also to be honest with one another about the things that we think and feel. Christian fellowship it seems thrives in an atmosphere of commitment, trust, and honest communication. When properly appreciated it entails both learning and laughter and is a rich kind of nourishment for the soul.