“I’m pretty sure this is why God made us” John said with a laugh.
John was my only normal Christian friend when I wasn’t normal, Christian, or a real friend to anyone. I met him when we worked together at a corporate chain restaurant that inspired misanthropy in most of the employees. We would go out many nights after pettily arguing with coworkers about ice bins and having meatballs thrown at the back of our heads by children. I would complain and rehash and stew in my resentment, and John would listen and gently, in his nice, logical and loving way, tell me to get over it. He dealt with the same issues and got irritated, but they never affected his view of the people involved.
During that time and today more than ever, John is one of very few people I’ve known who truly walks in love. He showed me the love of Jesus before I cared to conceptualize it. We’ve remained friends long after our restaurant days, and when I became a Christian he meant much more to me than he had before.
Shortly after my baptism, John joined the Marines. We talked on the phone sporadically during his training, and after a year of not seeing him he called to tell me he’d be home for Christmas. When he scooped me up in the middle of a crowded mall 3 days before Christmas, it felt like he never left. During his two weeks home in Georgia we hung out as much as we could, and the last time was right before he left. After two weeks of dinners, movies and generally tame times, he demanded we have an adventure that night. While I was thinking this translated into a potential shot of raspberry in my Mocha, he was thinking we ought to hike up Stone Mountain.
Hiking up Georgia’s 1600-foot-tall mountain of granite at 11pm in 30 degree weather after 5 hours of rain didn’t sound like a good idea to me, but with a little coaxing I found myself at the top anyway. The fog was so thick we couldn’t see more than ten feet away, and had to scream to just barely hear each other.
After we had our “fun,” I fell three times trying to walk back down. The rain had made it slick and my running shoes weren’t exactly made for gripping. He stifled a laugh the first time I fell, but by the second he was gripping his stomach in near convulsing belly laughs at my tumble. Soon after I told him to pipe down, he fell too. We were both laughing so hard we were crying, and tried to stand up unsuccessfully several times before we decided if we were going to get down it wouldn’t be while upright. We remained seated, dug our heels into the ground and scooted our way down.
“I’m pretty sure this is why God made us” he said with a laugh after we’d made a bit of progress. “Can you imagine what we look like right now from up there?”
I could. We looked like dogs. Two mangy, wet dogs. I don’t know when I’ve been more humbled; our butts were cold, wet and numb, jeans soaked, hands beginning to bruise. My hair was acting in a way that made me question gravity, and I’m pretty sure my bottom lip was sticking out, pout-like.
After a little scooting and a lot of sliding and a bit of walking, we made it down the mountain. “Hey” he said once we finally got back to the car. “Thanks for going to Stone Mountain with me.”
That’s the thing about me and John. We know what just happened, that in the span of a couple hours our friendship had deepened and we shared a night neither of us will forget. He never brings to attention or revels in the fact that he is constantly giving me a fresh perspective to life. He never toots his own horn or sets out to teach me something, or consciously makes a point to show God’s love. He keeps Him foremost in his mind, and it just sort of happens.
It didn’t occur to me to even think of God before John said something, but as I thought about it I decided Jesus probably would have been cracking up with us right then. I spend so much time thinking of God as serious and rebuking and convicting, and while he is all of those things he is also full of joy. He can be fire and brimstone when He needs to be, and sometimes I focus on that so much that I forget He is rain and granite, too.