“So do not fear; I will provide for you and your little ones.” Thus he comforted them and spoke kindly to them.
Six months before I graduated seminary and was about to begin my pastoral ministry, my best friend, Mike, called me up.
He told me that he had met someone very special and had just asked her to marry him and she said yes!
He then asked me if I would be willing to preside at his wedding. I was humbled and honored to be asked! Before I could even think about it, I said yes!
But then I started to think about it some more and asked if I could have lunch with him and his fiancé. I knew Mike just about as well as I knew anyone. I wanted to get to know his future bride.
Mike and I had grown up together. We met in the 7th grade and, along with our friend Rob, we were the best of friends. Mike and I shared a locker in high school. We both were into computers – this was the early 1980’s. We both wanted to have careers in computers and worked on his and mine all the time.
After graduation, Mike went to a Big 10 university to continue his studies of computers. I washed out of computers quickly and eventually ended up in the pastoral ministry program at a small school in Wisconsin.
But we were still best of friends. We would get together each Thanksgiving and Christmas and we emailed each other all the time.
We set up a lunch where I could meet his fiancé and we could talk about their upcoming nuptials.
Over lunch we talked about how they met, what she was doing with her life, and how she grew up.
Towards the end of lunch, the topic of how she grew up morphed into talking about the wedding. And this is where things took a turn. For the worse, as it turned out.
Upon hearing my story of going into the pastoral ministry, she told me that she was actually an agnostic and her parents were atheists.
Then she dropped the bomb. She said that while she respected my beliefs, could I not mention God or Jesus in the wedding service, please?
I admit, I didn’t know what to say. I had the perfect opportunity to share my faith with this person. I could tell her of the love of Jesus and how he wants to bless their marriage.
But I froze. I didn’t say anything. We concluded our lunch and went our separate ways.
I had a dilemma. Do I agree to preside over their wedding and respect her wishes and not mention God or my faith in Christ? Or do I politely decline to be the presiding minister of the wedding?
I chose the latter. Mike was very disappointed, but he told me he understood.
A few weeks before the wedding, I was really conflicted about the whole thing. I’m ashamed to admit that not only did I decline to preside at the wedding, I declined to show up at all!
I chickened out. I told them that I was going to be making my initial visit to the congregation that had called me to be their pastor. This was my first call out of the seminary and it’s a pretty big deal.
But in all honesty, I could have arranged that visit to be another weekend.
But I was a coward. An immature coward. And it cost me my friendship with Mike.
To this day – 23 years later – I still have an ache in my heart over what I did. I’ve tried to talk to Mike all these years. I’ve written to him and apologized on many occasions. But our friendship is non-existent and he still doesn’t talk to me.
I appreciate how hurtful I was to Mike. I’m so sorry I acted that way. I have learned to live with it by the grace and forgiveness of Jesus Christ. But I still wonder if our friendship could be salvaged somehow.
This part of my life gives me a greater appreciation for the story of Joseph that culminates in Genesis 50.
Joseph was sold into slavery by his brothers. This led him to be exiled in a foreign land, accused of sexual assault and imprisoned with no hope of salvation.
But God used that terrible time to bring about the salvation of many. He raised Joseph to a position of authority in Egypt that led to the saving of not only the entire Egyptian nation but also the peoples of the surrounding nations during a horrible seven-year famine.
This also led to the saving of his brothers and family – the very brothers who had sold him as a slave so many years before.
When in a position to exact his revenge on his brothers, instead Joseph says, “you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today” (Genesis 50:20).
I can’t help but believe that God will bring about something good from my fractured friendship.
After all, this is exactly what Jesus Christ came to do for all of us. Reconciliation. First, Jesus reconciled us to God through his shed blood and sacrificial death. But that also leads us to be able to have reconciliation with each other.
It is my prayer that Mike and I will be reconciled someday.
Is there anyone in your life you hope to be reconciled with? Bring that to God and ask for him to show you the way.
Heavenly Father, I pray that you will bring reconciliation to our world, starting with me. Thank you for Jesus who reconciled us to you and made it possible for all of us to be reconciled to each other. In Jesus’ name. Amen.
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