Portrait of a Friend
I got a call last week from an old friend, Tom. He was walking around in a Walmart with his kids (in a town about 2000 or so miles away from here) and decided to call me. Well, it wasn't quite as simple as that. You see he'd had a dream about me. In the dream he sees me just sort of standing there, and he walks up to me and gives me a big hug and weeps to see me again. The next morning he told his wife, "Honey, I think I must be missing Bob big time!" You see, we were good friends, but then he moved away, and we just sort of lost contact with one another. Anyway, his good wife says, "I think you better give him a call, don't you?"
So, the Walmart call. And it was wonderful. And I feel like a friendship that we had allowed to lapse has been restored. Tom and his family have been through a lot, as they say, in the past year. The last time I saw him he was deeply depressed. Laurie and I were at a concert in the park, where another friend of ours was playing. That's where we saw Tom and his wife. I knew something was wrong when he didn't leap out of his chair as soon as he saw me, didn't wrap me in his big arms and give me one of those passionate laughter-filled bear-hugs that are his trademark.
I should tell you this much about my friend Tom. He is the most passionate, most sold-out God-loving man I have ever met. His is an out of the closet kind of faith, boisterous, joy-filled, rumbling up from deep within. I knew him as an acquaintance before I first came to his church. When he saw me that Sunday morning he just lit up. He came to me and gave me one of those trademark hugs, and he was laughing and crying at once, and all because I'd showed up at his church.
Anyway, there at the park we got to talking, and he told me about his depression, about how the world had closed in on him and he felt squeezed in by four dark walls, and there was no way out. All this talk was simply shocking to me, for it was so not-Tom. Well, we walked together in the park, and I felt totally inadequate to help him, to speak words of hope to him. We bought ice cream cones. We talked. And then, with darkness falling, the four of us stood together in a little circle, holding hands, and we prayed. Not long after that Tom and his family moved away, looking for a new start. Looking for hope again.
So that's the background. It was just about a year ago, I guess. And now he calls me from the Walmart, and he tells me about his dream. He says, "Gee it's good to hear your voice, Bob." He tells me he's off the anti-depressants that the doctor had prescribed, praise God, and he tells me he's working for a Christian pest control company now. Here's the funny thing about that: though he had actually landed a job with another firm, and was due to start in just two days, it just didn't seem right. So when he heard about an opening at the Christian firm, he went in for an interview. Anyway, after the interview, the owner walks around his desk to shake Tom's hand and says, "Tom, do you believe in divine encounters?" Tom says, yes, I do. And the fellow says, "Well I believe we just had one. When can you start?"
So you see God has made a way where there seemed to be no way. Tom told me this story in an email. He wrote: "The stress level here is very low. We meet every Monday as a management team and have devotions and pray. Glory to God!!!!!!!!!! [See, that's Tom all over, he's a walking exclamation point!] Our God can take the roughest of situations and turn them into a lesson in his faithfulness and mercy. Blessed be the name of the Lord!"
I asked Tom if I could tell his story here at Mr. Standfast, and he said that would be fine. It has always been Tom's way to live out Romans 12:1 with reckless abandon, and in this, though we are in many ways of a quite different temperament, he is a model to me. Thank you, Tom. I'm so happy you called. You ministered to my heart. Your living waters refreshed me. I love you, Tommy. You're awesome!