“To be born again means not the act of reentering your tired old mother’s blood stained womb. That is nothing, but to be born again, truly, with eyes wide open, this is everything. And nothing short of eternity’s gate will wash away the rolling, angry clouds.
I stopped running, not a metaphorical run, just jogging down 12th Street hill, just north of blue, gray Memorial Stadium where we, the faithful, unhopeful spent Saturdays in September, October, and November dutifully watching the losses pile high with the dead, falling green, red, brown leaves on the well groomed, well painted artificial grass.
I stopped because the jog was over. I did not see the clouds roll away, yet the veil lifted just the same. Nature’s clouds remained, whiter than they’d been in years. The blue brilliant, hurting my eyes, exciting my senses. Yes, at that time I stood amazed, well more happy within the clarity of the moment.
An old friend descended between the white pillars. He would not talk to me at that moment, the moment of his descending, only smiling and nodding at those angels and spirits descending or ascending respectively.
“Why do angels only descend?,” I asked. He only smiled. He would not talk openly of such things. But he would walk. And he would listen. And he would smile.”
Looking back at the days that I would one day write the above opening to in a short story based loosely on my life, I remember that J often felt as much like a friend, and fellow traveler, as my Lord and Savior. It was during this period that the poster signed “With love, J” hung on my apartment wall (see Appendix “J’s Coming: Look Busy”). That’s not as crazy as it might initially sound, that of J being a friend. He refers to his disciples as friends during the Last Supper in the Gospel of John after all. Surely the disciples felt at once comforted and honored by this. What if one of the ways that our God comes to us is as a friend?
In many ways over the years, I’ve let that relationship slip in the sense of that kind of intimacy that comes from friendship. I need J to be my savior now more than ever, but the peace that came from our friendship is something I want as well. Lately, I’ve felt the tugging of my heart to return to those days. I can’t return to those days, of course, but like reconnecting with old friends from the past, I can reconnect with my old friend in much the same manner.
Old friendships renewed bring new memories, that while not the same as the early ones, are just as real, and in this sense, “you can go home again.” The joy that arose from connecting with old friends and kindred spirits still exists despite all the years and distance that have been traveled. I’m still walking the path I’ve been placed on, making mistakes, getting frustrated with myself and the world around me, but I’m still moving forward. And if I allow J to be both friend as well as Lord, then I think the wilderness, with all the trials and tribulations it will continue to throw at me, will not have the power to make me lose sight of the hope that can’t be taken away from me. Nor can it take away from me anyone I choose to call friend.