I allowed myself a few minutes early this morning to think back about my school days, and in particular my closest friend during those days. This may or may not have been spurred by him registering a comment in the forums yesterday and subsequently sending me an email to announce the birth of his first child. It probably was.
My family moved to Ancaster, Ontario a mere two days before the first day of school. I was to attend eighth grade at Timothy Christian School in Hamilton, a few minutes' bus ride away. Having moved several times in my childhood I was not particularly nervous about starting into a new school as I tended to make friends quite quickly. I was never one of the leaders of the class, but I was never a follower or the one everyone beat up on either. That first day was a little intimidating but I got through it quite well. It helped that there were two other new students beginning that day. It took only as long as lunch time for me to meet Brian who was to become my closest friend for many years. Over the weeks that followed we began to get to know each other and to realize that we had much in common. I believe our very first conversation revolving around our hobbies, which at the time were assembling those cheap little plastic model kits that just never quite seem to look right.
It turns out Brian lived in the countryside a few minutes outside of Ancaster but attended the same church I did. The church had service times of 9:30 and 3:30 which allowed a perfect window of opportunity for visiting between services. For years we would trade off almost every Sunday - one Sunday I would go to Brian's house between services and the next week he would come to mine. Of course as my sisters began to grow up it seemed Brian wanted to come over a little bit more frequently, but I'm sure the girls had nothing to do with it. Most of our Sundays were consumed with playing hockey when we were at his house or playing some sort of board game or computer game when at my house. We spent endless hours blasting tennis balls at each other on his driveway and blasting little plastic armies in my basement bedroom when it was my turn to entertain.
A year after we met we both moved on to high school. The school was quite small and had nothing to offer at lunch time, so we ended up (as did everyone, it seemed) walking endless circuits of the hallways and around the building. When we could we would sign up to play basketball or badminton as part of our intramural activities. We were usually quite evenly matched in sports, though he definitely held the edge in badminton. He was also better academically, mostly, I'm sure, because he actually had something of a work ethic - something that I did not discover until long after my school days were complete.
During the first three years of high school we continued to be joined at the hip. We hung out together (since we were far too old to play by this time) at school, moped around between church services and even got into trouble together a few times. Perhaps one of my most vivid childhood memories is paying back his neighbor's grouchiness by obliterating his mailbox with firecrackers, smoke bombs and other childhood playthings. Generally, though, we were good kids, even trying to make a point of inviting people others regarded as the "losers" to spend Sunday afternoons with us.
Sometime in the eleventh grade our relationship changed. It was during these days that God began to do His work in me. While I had been raised in a strong Christian family, in my teens I began to wrestle with whether I would continue to coast on my parents' faith or if I would truly take it as my own. Needless to say, God drew me to Himself and while I had no great moment of epiphany, at some point I became a believer. While I don't believe my behavior changed radically, for some reason we began to drift apart. Following the eleventh grade I elected to finish my high school education at the local public high school. Around the same time my family began attending a different church and Brian and I slowly drifted apart. Two years earlier we would never have believed it, but as the months passed we saw each other less and less.
A few years passed. Sure we bumped into each other every now and then, but the old friendship was clearly gone. He had found new friends and I had found my future wife. Though we attended the same university we saw each other only every few weeks. Strangely enough it was during this time that I became close to his older brother, probably because our courses were in the same buildings and we often spent time between classes eating pizza in the cafeteria.
I am still surprised that Brian was not one of my groomsmen when I got married. Of course I shouldn't be surprised since I never asked him! He was at the wedding but played no official role. That is strange, considering the impact he had on my life. A few years later he got married and I was also a mere spectator at his wedding.
As I reflected on our relationship I felt sorry that we did not stay closer. We truly were bosom buddies, but perhaps our relationship was built around shallow, childish pursuits and there was not enough to sustain us as we grew up and (eventually) matured. I remember a few years ago Brian came over and shared that he, too, had become a believer and that he now understood the changes I went through in the eleventh grade. I was thrilled to hear about God's work in his life.
Not too long ago Brian and his wife went through a very difficult period and it grieved me that I could not help them through their time of grieving. At that time I truly wished we were closer. A few days ago Brian's wife gave birth to a beautiful baby boy and Brian sent me an email to share the joyous news. While the miles and even the years may separate us, today I share his joy, rejoicing in God's goodness.
Now that I have reached the end of this article I feel like I need to make a profound point, but I'm not so sure there is one. I suppose it was therapeutic just to spend some time reflecting on a great friend who God put in my life for a time. Who knows? Perhaps God will allow our paths to converge again some day. I do not know if his role will be purely in the past, or whether God will allow him to work in my future as well. But regardless of the Lord's plan, I thank God for giving me a friend like Brian, who brought me so much joy and friendship during my childhood.