Old Friends and Memories . . .
Vol: 50 Issue: 21 Monday, November 21, 2005
As I was researching our archives yesterday, I came upon an Omega Letter I had written from a motel room in Louisville, Kentucky. Although it was only a bit over two years ago, it seems like much, much longer.
It brought back bitter-sweet memories, and, although I was researching another topic altogether, I stopped to read it through. It was the night before I was to meet with an old friend for the first time in two decades. . . .
I wasn’t planning to write about it today — I had a completely different column outlined, and, although I kept hacking away at it, it wasn’t flowing. The Lord kept nudging me in a different direction, but since I already had so much time invested, I kept plugging away . . . then my computer froze solid.
Apparently, there is a message in that old column the Lord wants revisited. . .
“Some months back, an unexpected sequence of events brought an old friend back into my life. The details surrounding how it all happened are a bit fuzzy, but, to make a long story short, I found myself on the phone with one of my very first partners when I was a police officer in Texas, many more years ago than I like to contemplate.
Wylie Porterfield and I went to the police academy together, and instantly became fast friends. A few years later, we were fortunate enough to be able to work together as a team. And what a team we were! It was all very heady; we were young, we were on a mission, and we were invulnerable. (Or so I thought at the time.)
There is something unique about the partnership between two cops that defies conventional explanation. We knew everything about each other, our wives, our kids, what we thought was important in life, and how we hoped to do something special.
In some ways, we were like brothers. In other ways, we were like an old married couple, bickering over nothing, too close to hide our moods and too honest with each other to hold back the truth.
Sometimes, that had a tendency to rub the wrong way, and there were more than a few times when it wasn’t pretty. Like family, only closer.
So when I heard Wylie s voice on the phone, it was quite an experience. We caught up on such things as we could, given that we hadn’t seen each other in close to twenty-five years. In fact, we still haven’t.
The other day, my old friend called me up again. We talked about the old days, and how nice it would be to see each other again. After I hung up, I thought about our conversation.
I thought about how excited I was to hear from Wylie, all these years later. Even more, that he was as glad to hear from me as I was from him. Try as I might, I can’t recall anything about my old friend and our years of service together that was remotely negative.
I know we had fights, but I can’t recall them or what they were about. I know that there were times when I disappointed him, and I am sure there were times that he disappointed me.
But I can’t remember the specifics, and, if I could, I would prefer not to. I wouldn’t want some past event to cloud the joy I felt when I heard my friend s voice.
I called Wylie back day before yesterday to accept his invitation to visit. Accordingly, Gayle and I are on another walkabout this time to Texas, to the same town Wylie and I patrolled all those years ago.
Gayle and I haven’t arrived at Wylie s yet, but we are on the road. I am in a hotel room in Louisville, Kentucky at the moment I anticipate seeing Wylie sometime tomorrow evening.
So, what does my this is what I did at summer camp story have to do with the Omega Letter and our mission?
I couldn’t help but meditate on the joy I felt having heard from my old friend, after so many years. We hadn’t talked in decades, but after the initial awkward moments, we picked up right where we had been before, as if no time had elapsed at all.
It made me think of that Christian who, having been out of touch for so many years, now fears that God will demand an explanation for where he s been, and why he s been out of contact for so long. So that phone call gets put off indefinitely.
I thought about what it must be like for God to hear unexpectedly from one of His old partners somebody with whom He had patrolled the mean streets long ago, before time and circumstances created that distance between them.
After all that they’d been through together, it was as if the relationship was only important to one of them. Until God gets that call He s been waiting for and then all is forgiven and forgotten. Nothing is more important to God than restoring that relationship.
It was so important that it was worth His Own Blood to make it right. And God sits there, waiting for the phone call that will restore that fellowship He so desperately misses.
You don’t even need a quarter. You can call collect.” (The Omega Letter, Volume 24, Issue 23)
Almost one year to the day after that first meeting, I made the trip back to Texas, but this time, it was to say goodbye. Wylie had been diagnosed with a malignant brain tumor six months before and was not expected to live much longer.
By this time, Wylie had become a force in the member’s forums, and many of you came to love him as I did. He shared his thoughts with us in the forums, and when the Lord finally called him home, his loss was felt by OL members on every continent.
I miss Wylie. I miss hearing his voice on the other end of the phone, I miss the funny messages he used to leave on the answering machine, and most of all, I miss his counsel. But I know that I will see him again.
Jesus Christ unlocked many mysteries for the Church, not the least of which was what happens when we die. Until Jesus defeated death at His resurrection, the general understanding was that man dies, and then awaits the resurrection of the dead.
The Book of Job, chronologically the oldest book in the Bible, spoke of the resurrection of the dead even before the time of Abraham, confidently saying;
“For I know that my Redeemer liveth, and that he shall stand at the latter day upon the earth: And though after my skin worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh shall I see God: Whom I shall see for myself, and mine eyes shall behold, and not another; though my reins be consumed within me.” (Job 19:25-27)
But Jesus gave us additional revelation, a new ‘mystery’ for the Church, telling us exactly what happens when we die. There is no ‘soul sleep’ as the OT prophets supposed.
Jesus taught specifically and incontrovertibly that, when the moment of death comes, our conscious spirit lives on, AWAITING the resurrection of the dead, which is when our spirit is united with our new and improved physical bodies.
At the Cross, Jesus told the repentant thief, “Verily I say unto thee, TODAY shalt thou be with Me in paradise.” (Luke 23:43)
Our spirits exist and have substance, and they are not only conscious after death, they are completely self-aware.
The rich man of Luke 16 remembered he had five brothers. He begged Abraham to send Lazarus to warn them ‘lest they also come into this place of torment.’
Death is not the end of our existence; it isn’t even the end of our consciousness. But it is the end of our opportunity to choose to accept or reject the free gift of salvation procured for us by our Savior.
The Bible assures me that I will not only meet Wylie again, but that I will know him and he will know me. Speaking of the separation of death, Paul wrote, “But I would not have you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning them which are asleep, that ye sorrow not, even as others which have no hope.” (1st Thessalonians 4:14)
To the lost, death means eternal separation. The rich man of Luke 16 will spend eternity alone, nameless, and separated from all but his memories, whereas Lazarus is known to God by name, and ‘comforted’.
Paul says of believers;
“For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with Him.” Paul is speaking of the Rapture of the Church, and assures us that the dead in Christ rise first.
Then Paul says; “Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up TOGETHER WITH THEM in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord.”
Paul exhorts us to “comfort one another with these words.” (1st Thessalonians 4:17-18)
Like Job, I am certain that ‘mine eyes shall behold, and not another’ the Lord when He returns for His Church, (an event I anticipate taking place almost any day now.)
“. . . then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory?” (1st Corinthians 15:54-55)