Read: 2 Timothy 4:9-22
When Lindsay and I moved from Tennessee to Wake Forest, we knew no one. We bought a beautiful little starter home in Flaherty and began to set up house for what we thought was only going to be a couple of years while I studied for my master’s degree. Two days after moving in, someone knocked on our front door. I was greeted by a gangly, mop-headed guy who looked about my age. He was wearing a baseball hat, t-shirt, shorts, and flip-flops, and his name was Phud.
“Welcome to the neighborhood,” Phud chirped. “My wife and I just moved in a couple of months ago and have watched your house being built while out on walks together.” He was very friendly and had a disarming smile. Being completely new to the area, I was glad he had knocked on my door. We were both in similar situations, having just moved to the area and making a house into a home for the first time. However, it was more than just extroverted friendliness that had led Phud to my door.
“So, I don’t know if you believe in God or anything but… I do and felt convicted that I needed to come over here and apologize to you or at least, let you know about something. A week or two ago, my wife and I were out on a walk, and I had to use the bathroom pretty badly. I didn’t think I was going to make it back to our house, and your house was built but didn’t have locks on the doors yet, so I came in and used your bathroom. I just felt like I should let you know, say thanks, and let you know that you are welcome to stop by our house if ever you need to come in and relieve yourself.” At that moment I knew one of two things were true: either we were going to be friends, or I was going to need to buy security cameras.
Phud and his wife Christie invited us to check out their church. “It’s a small church, and we meet in an old converted funeral home, but the preaching is rock solid, and the people are awesome,” Phud told us. They also invited us to attend their small group that met on Thursday night’s at some guy named Jeff’s house. Little did we know the impact those decisions would have. These people would soon become like family to us. And no one can love you or hurt you quite like family.
I wish I could tell you that every member treated every other member like Jesus: considering the other more important than himself, taking up the basin and towel to wash each other’s feet, always speaking the truth in love, but…that wasn’t possible. Why? Because I and every other member of this small group were works in progress. And we still are.
Many are still faithfully following Jesus at North Wake. Others have moved away. A few have denied their faith and pursued their passions. As bitter and heartbreaking as that is, I’m confident that God’s not done with them until their preordained last day.
Paul’s closing remarks to Timothy sound so honestly familial. Demas is out pursuing the world. Crescens and Titus moved away. Tychicus is now a Far Flung Family. Luke is now Paul’s only companion. It all sounds so familiar.
Giving ourselves away to each other is difficult. Meaningful relationships take work, and inevitably, they end, whether from spiritual or physical departure. What I have found is that no one can fill anyone else’s shoes. I’m not really sure why that saying has stuck around. There will never be another Phud Chambers or Jeff Doyle or any of the other great friends I’ve made over the years here. But inevitably, in their absence, God brings someone whose shoes leave their own indelible marks. And God continues to build His church so that the gates of Hell cannot stand against her. To Him be glory forever and ever.