Like Iron Sharpens IronJune 1st, 2012
Last weekend, I got a rare opportunity to see an old friend that I had not seen in years. We had previously lost touch, but thanks to the wonders of Facebook, we were able to stumble across each other and set up a meeting. Seeing him again and introducing our wives to each other caused me to think back on the early days of our friendship. I reflected on the powerful role God gave him in challenging my faith.
Becoming friends with Paul was an answer to one of those prayers that make people say, “Be careful what you pray for, it just might come true.” I distinctly remember going before the Eucharist. I asked God to bless me with a friend who would model holiness to me in order that I might be encouraged to become as holy as I can. Well, he did.
Paul and I were dorm roommates, and I got an intimate glimpse at his prayer and his habits. He was so committed to Christ, so prayerful and so willing to sacrifice. Most of all, he was truly humble about his relationship with God. At times, it was exhausting! I already loved God and I wanted to grow as a disciple. But… I don’t think I really wanted to see how much room for improvement I still had. I enjoyed Paul’s company immensely, but at the same time, I did not like feeling quite so convicted.
I need to be clear that Paul never said anything or gave any indication that he felt I needed to be a better person. The conviction of my own need to improve either came from God or from my own conscience. After we had been friends for a long time, I once teased him about this challenge that his spirituality often placed before me. He looked at me completely startled, and then surprised me by relating a time when one of my own prayerful insights had been of great value to him. “Iron sharpeneth iron. So a man sharpeneth the countenance of his friend.” Proverbs 27:17 (Douay-Rheims)
Years later, I am a husband and a father, and my pursuit of holiness impacts others in far more direct ways. I reflect on the benefit of such a friendship in the past, and I have to wonder. Do I still have close enough friendships with other members of the same sex? Do I challenge them and let them challenge me? Do I take seriously the powerful role of men’s or women’s fellowship?
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