Wisdom and Friendship
By Jack Frederick
It’s late, just after midnight. I’m sleepy, but I remember how I spent the day…I visited my old friend Wyndham, and his lovely wife, Jeanie.
Wyndham has a few wrinkles on his brow, many of them put there by his friendship with me. I remember the times I hurt or disappointed him, and the times I made him laugh, the fish we caught together, the children we raised together, the poor we fed together, the disciples we made together, the times we cried over lost sleep and going out to find sheep who wandered. As I was about to lay down tonight I remembered the words of an eighteenth century hymn…
How sweet, how heav’nly is the sight,
When those that love the Lord
In one another’s peace delight,
And thus fulfill His Word.
The waterworks began to flow, unabated. I had held it together during our visit today, though my voice cracked here and there. We remembered stories together. I told him I kinda avoided the passage in Romans 16:16 where Paul told us to give one another a holy kiss, but I kissed him on his slightly balding head. I held his hand. I hugged him more than usual. I miss him. His physical health is waning; mine, too, but his change is more dramatic due to a difficult neurological disorder which robs his strength but not his amazing wisdom and insight. I have known brilliant men & women, lots of successful people, scholars and the like…but I’ve never known a man or woman so gifted in wisdom. The difference was always magnified by my inherent lack of wisdom; I always blamed it on growing up without a father to teach me, I felt like I was always ten years behind my age in wisdom while Wyndham was maybe 20+ years advanced. God gave me gifts, too, I was smart in a few things, I had the whole rocket scientist thing going on and I had passion & zeal, but wisdom would add depth I had never known.
James says of God, “If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you” (James 1:5). That’s the way it was with Wyndham, I felt he was willing to be my friend, willing to teach me how to gain wisdom and “show me how” to apply this in life, yet he never made fun of me for what I lacked. And Wyndham was really lame when it came to things like mechanical stuff, working on cars; I would fix things for him just to get to spend time with him. He taught me, and brought out the gifts God had given me, helped me see these and use them.
Wyndham (& Jeanie) taught me (us) so much about working in the ministry, how to lead spiritually in churches and in our family. I was like Peter with Jesus, I wanted to learn but I did some dumb things; he was gracious, he rebuked me when I needed it, but I learned by walking with him. We were discipleship partners and friends. Our wives and children were close friends. Last year during our visit he grew weary and asked me to help him from his motorized chair into bed, not an easy thing. Then after I wrestled him onto the bed he said, “you gotta pull my shirt off”…a tight tee shirt, even more difficult with him lying down. It was difficult…and awkward…we began to laugh, then he began to cry as he said, “Jack, take care of my family.” Yes, I cried. I told him I would, but reminded him he might live longer than me… I stay up so late, drink Mountain Dew and eat fried chicken. I live life at breakneck speed, even though I’m old.
I thought about the hymn…
When each can feel his brother’s sigh
And with him bear a part;
When sorrow flows from eye to eye,
And joy from heart to heart.
I’ve shared things with my friend Wyndham, things I may have shared with no other person, because I trust him as a friend to always do what is best for me. I feel a deep sense of gratitude that God put such a friend in my life, to have such a beneficial impact in my life. I feel a sorrow because we are not often together, and because we are aging and face life-limiting health challenges.
One reason I go at the pace I do, to so many places and into so many lives, is because I feel I have been given so much. Not that God has made me a great person, but God has put into my life great men & women who shaped my life, Wyndham being just one…a very special one, but there are so many who bear responsibility for making me who I am, in good ways.
I am grateful for Wyndham & Jeanie, for their friendship and for their family which is like an extension of our family. My kids look at him as a second dad. I hope for each of you that God puts someone this amazing in your life, and I hope you have the courage to go for it and the humility to allow the potter to shape you…both God the potter and those He puts in your lives.
And one more thing: I’ve argued with Wyndham, maybe more than I’ve argued with anyone ever. As elders in a large church, a fellow elder Greg Nevil once called us on the carpet and asked to get together with us to work out things as he saw us wrangling with one another. Great relationships don’t happen because two people just naturally agree and get along. Great friendships are forged in the fires of trials and conflicts as we love one another, and love God so much we will not let go.
The poet Edgar Guest said, “it takes a heap o livin’, to make a house a home.” That is true of friendships, too.