When my son, Paul Timothy, joined the Navy, I was very sad. Proud, of course, and grateful for the way they turned a boy into a Man. But I was very sad then. He was so young, and I’m so doggoned sentimental. We didn’t get into a tearful, hugging farewell, but when he left for basic, he was leaving a big hole in my life. Where love has welded hearts together, even temporary partings are painful. After I got back from the “send off” at the recruiting station, I found a hand-written note Tim had left in a place so I couldn’t miss it. I kept it in my wallet, quoting it as I had occasion, until I wore it out. Tim’s note contained this quote from Richard Bach:
“Don’t be dismayed at farewells. Partings are necessary before meeting again. And meeting again, whether it is after moments. . . or a lifetime. . . is certain for those who are friends.” I’m convinced of the truth of that sentiment. . .especially for those who are united in Christ.
The years and miles drove some distance between Ted and me. Feeling I’d disappointed a lot of people, and “busting my own chops” mercilessly, I intentionally dropped off the radar. After I left the Church, and felt the Church had given up on me, I guess my defense was to build some walls around me. And a moat stocked with hungry, angry alligators. And piranhas. No imposing castle, to be sure, but I found if I were isolated and insulated I would not have to be vulnerable to anyone. I wouldn’t have to do any explaining, or defending or apologizing . Disappointed idealists make the worst kind of skeptics, and that was the mantle I took upon myself as I entered some sort of self-imposed spiritual exile. If anyone wanted me, they’d have to find me. With unlisted numbers, no forwarding address, etc., it would have been quite easy for most to forget “old Whassisname.”
But time and love have a way of mending lives when necessary, and reuniting us with some who’ve played important roles in our lives.
Ted Weeks (Remember him?) had something come up which made him feel like he wanted to see and talk with an old friend. I don’t know whom he asked. I do know he had some pretty resourceful, relentless sleuths tracking me down. They found me (A lotta good that federal witness program did! Ha! Just kidding! Honestly. That’s a joke!). We finally got back in touch with each other. He was at Duke University Hospital when we were finally able to talk with each other by telephone. Doctors and nurses were hovering compassionately, but the prognosis was grim. Ted took it like a champion.
As soon as possible after the telephone conversation, I went back to Greensboro for a few days and spent time with him and Pat, just before Ted had to re-enter Duke Hospital. Believe me when I tell you they did far, far more for me than I did for them. We talked, and remembered, and laughed, and hugged like we hadn’t seen each other in a while (In fact, we hadn’t). But, suddenly, it seemed just like old times! Yes. We wept. I’m not ashamed to admit it. But he and Pat did, too. And I’ve done it several times since, remembering that wrecked life I’d seen that morning so long ago and comparing that memory with the man I see now.
Nothing glassy-eyed or fanatical about what I observed. Just a guy who has faithfully sought to love and follow and serve his Lord Jesus of Nazareth. Now nearing the end of his “tour of duty,” he is as calm, confident, dignified and rational as he could possibly be. He “knows whom he has believed and is persuaded” that he’ll actually soon be in the presence of the Lord Christ. He was telling Pat about someone whom he might have overlooked but that he’d like for him or her to be able to attend his “Home going Celebration.” I just got tickled and laffed and said, “Ted, have you set a date yet? You thought about selling tickets? Or maybe having a double header?!”
Is there such a thing as being joyously serious? Or seriously joyous! In the presence of such beautiful expressions of courageous faith, I am simply at a loss for adequate expressions!
But one thing is certain to me: Ted has his bags packed, his ticket punched, and is ready to ride!
Quite a change from the first time we met. I concluded it had to have been a “New Birth.”
My mind tracked back over three decades and more, and I recalled that cold night after Christmas when the call came telling me about Jesse. I can see that part clearly now, and follow the logical flow to Ted. I know in God’s wisdom and love there’s much, much more to the story.
And I also thought about an organizational meeting for a Union Meeting! Of all things!! Surely you jest!! That, friends, is the way it happened and to this present moment my heart is filled with joy to have been a witness to such a wonder!
~God’s servant, your friend, brother, and fellow student