“How are you doing today, pastor?” he asked.
“I’m doing Okay.”
“You seemed a little discouraged last Sunday,” he said.
“Yeah, no pastor spends hours preparing a sermon only to preach it to more chairs than the people he loves.”
“It was a good sermon, pastor. I needed to hear it,” he said.
Then for the next hour we just talked about the stuff of life.
My friend is about ten years older than me, maybe more than ten years. He has a shock of white hair, a soft and smooth face and speaks with a deep and warm Texas drawl. He laughs often. It is easy to be in his presence. No posing, no pretense, and no pissing contests. Just a simple presence of a good man.
We didn’t talk about politics, theology, or literature. We just skipped from topic to topic in a random and ricocheted way and told each other stories from our lives.
I’ve only known him for a year, but he feels familiar, like I’ve known him longer. As if he has always been here. Or maybe I sensed that he was coming my way down through the years for such a time as now. All I know is that day, in that coffee shop, I needed an old soul to sit with me for a while.
Later that evening I mentioned to my wife about the coffee and said how encouraging it was to me. She asked me why it was so encouraging.
“What did he say that picked up your spirits?” she asked.
There are friends that you seek and cultivate. I have friends like that. I think of my friend Scott and Cameron. I saw them from a distance and said to myself, “Joe, you would do good to have them as your friends.” And now they are great friends. Growing deeper as the months and years roll by.
But then there are surprising friends. You didn’t see them coming, but they showed up at just the right time. That’s the way it is with my coffee-drinking friend from Texas. He came along at just the right time. And I have to say that while I was deeply and darkly discouraged that day, my friend didn’t TRY to encourage me. He didn’t even buy my coffee. He just sat with me, listened to me, and laughed at anything remotely funny.
Pretty good ingredients for buoying a sagging soul.
Friendships are such simple things and yet we complicate them when we bring our own soul-disease into the relationship. Our insecurities, our need to fix each other, our need to make pain go away, our dysfunction. Even our need to impress each other with our intelligence or humor. It is so winsome to sit with someone who has no agenda save being in your presence.
A young lady that grew up in the youth group with my sons, but who is developmentally delayed and suffers from severe epilepsy, wrote on a childhood friends Facebook wall the following post:
Happy Birthday, Jake! I’m so glad that it is your day for joy. I am always going to be a great friend for you.
Look closely at those words. Read them again—slowly.
Those are two great affirmations. She didn’t write them to me, but like the drawl of my Texas friend’s voice, I find comfort in them this gray day.
Birthday or no, I’m glad this is your day for joy.