Trustworthy friends have no price, and no one can estimate their worth.
Trustworthy friends are life's medicine, and those who fear the Lord will find them.
Those who fear the Lord will direct their friendships well... (Sirach 6:14-17)
I have been carrying an inner sense of sadness this week since finding out that a dear friend from college days, Tim Shea, died on Monday.
Tim was in many ways the leader of the circle of friends that became a source of identity and place of shelter during my first couple of years of college. Tim's room was usually the place where our group of guys living in Chapman Hall would gather for small group Bible study, sharing, and prayer.
There was a group of Freshman girls who completed our gang of friends. Together we spent most of the waking hours of our first year in college together. We ate together, studied together, skiied together, played intramural softball together, drove up to the hot springs together, watched this late night talk show hosted by a young and hip David Letterman together,... etc... etc.
We also grieved together. The last night of our Freshman year, our group drove to Boise for dinner. After dinner we went to a local park, I broke out my guitar, and we sang praise choruses and prayed for one another. We all went our separate ways counting the days until we would be back together in the fall. On the way home two of the girls were in tragic car accident and one of the central leaders of our little pack - Tammy Borgman - was killed. Just a few days after we had left each other in the joy of youth, we were back together holding one another in the midst of heart-wrenching grief and faith-shaking questions.
As is often the case, our group never quite recovered the close-knit nature we had that first year. People get into serious relationships. New friends enter in. People stop living in the same dorm. Life happens. Yet, as I think about each of those "Freshman friends" there is something akin to a "band of brothers" feeling that I have for them. I believe it is not just because of the good things we experienced, but it is primarily because we shared that significant loss together.
Tim and I were both preparing for ministry in college. I was always envious of Tim's heart. When I look back on those first couple of years I always think of Tim as the leader because there was a bigness and a maturity about him that was more than I certainly had at that time. I knew then that I had the skills and the head for ministry, but I always wanted Tim's heart.
Just a few weeks ago Debbie and I took our oldest son Caleb to Point Loma for his first year of college. As we were pulling out of San Diego I was praying for various parts of his year. First on my list of requests was that God would lead him to friends that would help the trajectory of his life be set in directions that would honor him. My guess is that my parents prayed a very similar prayer for me as they drove away from Nampa and headed back to Seattle. I am convinced that my friendship with Tim was one of the ways God answered their prayer. I will be forever glad for my college friendship with him.
I love the text above from Sirach about the value of friends. It's not everyday that a Protestant quotes from the Apocrypha, but the wisdom writer's words about our need for trustworthy friends resounds with God's truth.
I will admit that some of my sadness in hearing about Tim's passing has to do with my own sense of guilt about not living into Sirach's wisdom well. One of the blessings of my life has been the number of places I have lived and the great number of amazing communities of people I have lived within for a time. I am truly blessed with friends almost everywhere in the world.
The curse of the continually transitioning life so many of us live is that although we have a quantity of friends, the qualities of our friendships suffer. I am often envious of those who have stayed in one place and have friendships with people that have extended over decades and have a depth to them that only happens when you laugh and cry, rejoice and suffer together.
In am sad that I had not made contact with Tim for several years. In a strange sense of personal irony I was surfing through Tim's Facebook page on Saturday and came very close to sending him an email message. I had heard through the grapevine that Tim had gone through a number of recent challenges and I was trying to piece together the recent events of his life through pictures and posts. I regret not reaching out. We all carry around a mythology about all the time we have left to do all those things that can be put off until tomorrow.
I wish there was still time for us to catch up on each other's lives. I am sad that there is not. But I am a "prisoner of hope" that we will be graciously given by God an eternity to carry forward the friendships that we often fail to make the time to be trustworthy to in these limited days.
Thanks for being a trustworthy friend, Tim. See you again soon.