“What is the secret of your life?” asked Mrs. Browning of Charles Kingsley; “Tell me, that I may make mine beautiful too?”
He replied, “I had a friend.” -William C. Gannet
It was 18 years ago this month that I came to this place… this place of tumbleweeds and dust and amazing sunsets and more amazing people.
It was nothing short of surrender. I had given up on me – the “me” of my own making or imagination, that is.
My friends in Atlanta asked, “Where are you moving?”
“To hell,” I replied. “If the world was flat, Lubbock would be on the edge of it.”
But oh what I discovered when I showed up as a shell of the man I once was. Most importantly, I discovered that God was here all the time, waiting so patiently for me to get here.
There was so much still I needed to unlearn and re-learn. So many areas of my life still needed changing. I had been through the crash-and-burn and endured what can best be described as “God’s gauntlet” (a story for another time). But whatever had been stuck in the ruts of my stubbornness had been yanked free and clear, and I was here to heal. To reconcile with a family that to this day continues to show me what grace looks like.
But beyond my household and in-laws, there came another wave of people that I hadn’t bargained for. And that wave began when T.L. Garrett, then of Trinity Church, said to me, “This church believes in healing and restoration.”
I had never allowed such a ridiculous idea to creep into my theology before then.
And so it began… the crazy idea that grace actually works for pastors, too. And with it, wave after wave of people who have given of their time and kindness.
These are people who have loved me as if I deserved their love, or anybody’s for that matter.
They didn’t keep score when I disappointed them.
They didn’t give up on me when I had pretty much given up on myself.
They somehow had this idea that grace never sleeps, and that whoever I am today is no match for what the grace of God can accomplish in a lifetime.
They just kept giving me time to grow, to sow, to know.
They just kept showing me the kindness reflected in the old saying that “the heart of a Texan is as big as his state.”
No, that hasn’t always been true 100% of the time. But I’ve seen it lived and loved enough that I can say I’m a better man because of it.
And now after 18 years, we embark on a new season. The packers come Thursday, and the big truck shows up Saturday. But one thing can’t be wrapped in paper or stuffed in a cardboard box – the steadfast, unceasing love of the Lord, poured out from the hearts of lifetime friends. That I will personally carry, and never let go of.
To everyone who has shown your love and kindness over the past 18 years, who has given me places to begin again or who has allowed me to help you begin again, to everyone who opened a home, shared a meal or a laugh, who has prayed over me or let me pray over you…
Years and years ago, I wrote these words to describe relationships like this. They are as real to me today as ever…
The time may come when we will part, and never meet again
As we all seek to follow where the Lord would have us go.
But we’ll still share this bond throughout our days on earth and then
The unity will be complete, and everyone will know
That our communion isn’t based on this world’s earthly ties.
And not on phony smiles, or human praise or empty lies.
You are my brother – a word I can’t take lightly any more.
You are my sister – we share a love I’d never known before.
Jesus knew that I would never make it on my own,
So He placed me in this body where He is the cornerstone.
And it’s so lovely to know you’ll take my load when I’m not strong.
And it’s so holy to grow together knowing we belong to each other…
You’re my brother.
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