Altar Call – Opelika-Auburn
May 17, 2009
A good friend makes a difference when you are
Good friends have made a profound difference in my
life. I owe a debt I can never repay to the friends who have come alongside me
when I was hurting. Friends have saved my life more times than I can remember.
I don’t mean that a friend has saved me from drowning or
pulled me from a burning house. I am talking about the many other ways good
friends have rescued me from a fate worse than death.
One friend saved me giving up on God. That friend convinced
me by his compassion that God hurts when I hurt, that God cries when I cry. I
cannot prove that is true in any tangible way. But I do know that believing God
is like that saved me from becoming an angry atheist when our son died.
A good friend saved me from blubbering self-pity. I had
become obsessed with a painful experience of rejection by people who had
mistreated me. At every opportunity I talked relentlessly about how unfairly I
had been treated by these awful people.
One day at lunch this friend interrupted me; then firmly he
asked, “Walter isn’t it about time you put this matter behind you? Don’t you
need to forgive those people and get on with your life?” I felt like I had been hit between the eyes
with a two-by-four. But I knew my friend cared enough for me to tell me the
truth. In that moment I embraced the truth, gave up my self-pity as excess
baggage, and moved on with my life.
Like most people pastors need to let off steam
occasionally. Opposition and criticism can create a buildup of stress. Unless
we find ways to release it, stress can kill us. In every church I have found
one or two good friends who allowed me to get things off my chest and express
my real feelings about my frustrations.
such friends I have been free to take off my “spiritual” face and not fear
being chastised for having normal feelings of anger and resentment toward my
loyal opposition. The names and faces of these special friends are precious to
me for they have often saved me from myself.
permitting me to be “real,” they have allowed me the time and space to overcome
my own rotten attitudes and get back on the right track. Their understanding
and support have gently steered me away from self-destruction.
dear friend helped me save my marriage and patiently earn back the respect of
my children. For many years the church was the “other woman” in my life. It
took me many years to learn to balance the needs of my family with the needs of
I was able to admit that I had neglected my own family while responding to the
needs of my congregation. It was embarrassing but necessary to confess that
subconsciously I was feverishly trying to convince everyone that I was the greatest
pastor since sliced bread. I did not succeed but in trying I almost lost my
dear friend who helped me save my family is actually my best friend. At the lowest points of my life, when my
failures were overwhelming and my self-image was zero, this friend came
alongside me and gave me the hope to start over.
now you may have guessed that this dearest of friends is my wife of 57 years. So
when I affirm that good friends can make a profound difference in our lives,
she is at the head of the list of the precious friends who have saved my
life. My debt to her and the other good
friends who have touched my life is exceeded only by my gratitude. + + +