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On And On

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Chris is a very dear friend of mine who does not always like to adhere to what I consider normal social conventions. I can’t say it is a bad thing that he does not constantly comply with what society says he is supposed to do and who he is supposed to be, but I must admit it does throw me at times. If I didn’t know better, I would have to guess that he derives pleasure from making me squirm.

Let me give an example. Last Christmas Chris and his wife Rebecca traveled to their hometown in Saskatchewan for a short vacation. Over the holiday I spoke with Chris on the telephone, and after a nice discussion we were set to part ways when he said words that shocked me. I offered a rather emotionless “bye” to which he replied, “Tim, I love you man!” My mind went blank! What kind of a man tells another man that he loves him? It was too much for me. All I could say in reply was “Chris, there is nothing in my life’s experience that would allow me to reply to that.” And so we hung up, both laughing.

Another memory I have of Chris is from a day we spent at the house of some mutual friends. The family was preparing to list the house with a real estate agent and we spent the day painting, helping to get the house looking presentable. At one point we were all working and chatting when we noticed that Chris had disappeared. We walked around to the front of the house and there he was, face down on the driveway, nose to the pavement, watching some ants scurrying about. I guess it was then I learned that Chris was able to appreciate the small things in life that I somehow always seem to miss.

We first met Chris and his wife Rebecca through our church. Chris, a nuclear engineer, and Rebecca, an elementary school teacher, had just moved to Toronto from small-town Saskatchewan and learned about our church through the local newspaper. One Tuesday they showed up at our small group Bible study and I sensed an immediate connection with them. Maybe it was Chris’ quirkiness or Rebecca’s gut-honesty that drew me to them – I can’t truly say. It may even have been that we had a cultural closeness as they grew up in the midst of a German culture while I grew up in a Dutch culture. I think they sensed an immediate closeness in our group too, for I remember Rebecca breaking down and crying that evening, embarrassed that she did so the first time she ever met us, but feeling such loneliness in being so far from her family and friends.

Over the following months our families grew close. Aileen and I were blessed with our second child and a few months later, Rebecca gave birth to a beautiful little girl. I have wonderful memories of a long weekend at our cottage and a day we spent in an apple orchard, munching on apples and sitting under the trees, just talking about life, dreams and direction. I am a better person, a better friend and best of all a better Christian for having been blessed with their friendship. They taught me so much.

Through times of great joy and times of great difficulty we began to see such exciting growth in Chris and Rebecca’s life. We saw them learn to depend on God and to discern what He wanted them to do with their lives. We saw Chris catch on fire for God so that he began to be almost consumed by a desire to know God more and to know Him more intimately. We saw him consumed with a desire to share God’s love with his community.

Two years later, at the same Bible study where we had first met, it was our turn to cry. Chris and Rebecca, whom I had come to love and respect so deeply, were following God’s will for their lives by returning to Saskatchewan. The next day they packed all they owned into a truck and headed west.

In the months since then we have stayed in close contact. Chris and I type back and forth in MSN Messenger and whenever the phone rings at 10:30 PM I know it is going to be Chris just calling to see how we’re doing. In some ways it feels like we are almost closer to them now than when they lived mere minutes from us. While the miles between us have increased, we have come to realize that a bond forged based on God’s love is stronger than the distance we may be apart. Chris continues to challenge and sharpen me, even from thousands of miles away. Rebecca continues to provide friendship and encouragement to Aileen.

I sense that we will be together again on this side of eternity. Though at this time I have no intention of moving to Middle-of-nowhere, Saskatchewan (population 800 and that’s not the real name of their town) I do know that both our families are waiting to find clear direction. Many times I have prayed that God would cause our paths to cross again and I often truly feel that they will.

While they were living only blocks from us I may have been ignorant of the unique treasure God had given us in friends like Chris and Rebecca. I know now. And while I wait to see if our families will once again be together, I thank them for the wonderful friendship we have shared and continue to pray that God will bless them richly, holding them safely in the palm of His hand. I pray that the memories we shared will linger on and on. On and on.

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