by Rex Stepp
As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another.
Coast to Coast in a Sporty Red Pinto Wagon was going to be the name of the book we were going to write about all of the travels and near death experiences our group of 5 or 6 friends had while driving across the country with our buddy Mike on various trips in his ‘four cylinder but really only running on three cylinder’ Ford Pinto wagon.
We had met in high school and were all instantly drawn to Mike because he was an open book about his life and wore his faith on his sleeve…literally…the first day he showed up to high school he wore a black shirt with gold letters on it that said “Jesus Freak”. That, and the fact that he was the only Lebanese guy in the school really made him stand out.
Like most of us, Mike really didn’t have any money, only more so. The only car he could afford was a Ford Pinto wagon that was probably on its last leg when he bought it. But he made it work…sort of. Among the more memorable trips was the one to Connecticut he made one summer with a couple of guys to help work at a church. And then there was the trip where Mike and I drove from Oklahoma to California when we started college, having to stop every so often in the middle of the desert to add oil because the engine leaked so badly.
But we made it, surprisingly. While we probably didn’t always make the safest choices back then (I’d cringe if my boys did the same kind of thing today), they really weren’t ‘near death’ experiences. They were more like ‘near life’ experiences. Starting in high school, we built long lasting friendships based on common faith and experiences that have endured through the years. We all live in different states now but still try to get together every year, usually in Dallas, just to catch up.
Except last year.
Turns out Mike’s wife got cancer. And Mike had to have a serious surgery. It didn’t look very good for a long time but things seem to be looking up a little now. Mike is still recovering but sent a note to us all saying he really wanted to make the effort to meet up even though he wasn’t feeling well because he really realized how much our relationship meant to him.
It reminds me a little of the exchange between Piglet and Winnie the Pooh,
“Piglet sidled up to Pooh from behind.
“Pooh?” he whispered. “Yes, Piglet?”
“Nothing,” said Piglet, taking Pooh’s hand.
“I just wanted to be sure of you.”
As we look at community, keep in mind that we live out our faith in the context of relationships. They matter. And it’s important to develop positive ones that will help you grow in your faith. Like iron sharpening iron, the clash of living life together makes us sharper in the end so that you can stand on truth when you’re shaken by disappointments, sins or seductive philosophies. And when you’re walking with a friend that shares your faith, it’s easier to be sure of what you can’t see.
Will we ever really write our book? Probably not. But that’s ok because the journeys we’ve been on have taught us what’s important…and we still have to stop and add oil to each other because we all leak.
What can I do today?
Do you have strong Christian friendships? If you don’t, start looking for them and building them today. They won’t be perfect by any means, but they will help you to stand and grow in your faith.
Do you have honest relationships? It’s really not enough to simply have relationships with Christian friends. They need to be honest ones. Work on finding friends that you can trust with knowing your ‘stuff’ and that will love you anyway. Be that kind of person for someone else as well.