Growing up in a very conservative Christian home had many advantages. I never gave even a moment's thought to the possibility that my mother and father would ever divorce. They had their problems, just as any married couple has, but separation as a solution was never on anyone's radar. There was a regularity to life, with Sunday morning and evenings spent in church, Friday night at my father's folks, and Saturday at my mother's folks. We took summer vacations together, camping in the Adirondacks or Canada. It was in many ways a Leave it to Beaver childhood. With one exception.
I always felt somewhat awkward socially. I had friends, but was never part of the "cool" crowd, and I was never convinced that others really wanted to be with me. Even as a college student and early into our marriage, I felt as if people put up with me because I was a package deal with Linda. To be completely honest, sometimes I still feel that way. Which is why it is such an amazing pleasure to spend an evening with friends who are friends in the very best sense of the word. Four of us couples went out to a dinner theater tonight. We had a great meal, which was actually merely an excuse for getting together to talk and laugh our way through the evening. Years ago, had you told me I'd have friends such as this, I'd have looked back over my shoulder to see who you were talking to. I would not have imagined having friends such as God has given me.
At one point in his ministry, Jesus told his disciples that they were not just his students; he called them friends, and ever since, outcasts and ugly ducklings have found a sense of belonging that says, "You're home." It's a beautiful thing, and I'm very thankful for it tonight.