Making Friends

The wolf will live with the lamb, the leopard will lie down with the goat, the calf and the lion and the yearling together; and a little child will lead them.  The cow will feed with the bear, their young will lie down together, and the lion will eat straw like the ox.  The infant will play near the cobra’s den, and the young child will put its hand into the viper’s nest.  They will neither harm nor destroy on all my holy mountain, for the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea.

–          Isaiah 11:6-9

 

“’Dogs and cats should always be brought up together,’ said someone, ‘it broadens their minds so.’ … It is Affection that creates this taste, teaching us first to notice, then to endure, then to smile at, then to enjoy, and finally to appreciate, the people who ‘happen to be there’.  Made for us?  Thank God, no.  They are themselves, odder than you could have believed and worth far more than we guessed.”

–          C. S. Lewis, Four Loves

 

Of course, the passage from Isaiah is a Messianic prophecy.  In the tenth verse of Isaiah, just after what is quoted, Isaiah starts talking about the ‘root of Jesse’.  When Jesus returns and the New World is created, the lion will eat straw like the ox.  They may not be ‘friends’, but one won’t be prey while the other is the hunter.

 

Today, you see odd examples of the members of the animal kingdom getting along, usually due to the quote within a quote from C. S. Lewis, they were brought up together.

 

When my parents moved back to the old farm between my sophomore and junior years of high school, we no longer had the farm animals.  We did have dogs.  One day a kitten showed up in our yard.  It was probably abandoned by someone driving down the road.  I expected my mother to say something about not feeding it, but she said, “Give it some milk.  If it stays around, we can use it as a mouser.”

 

At first, the dogs didn’t much care for the new addition to the family.  They really didn’t like that the kitten would climb onto the ledge, a three-foot high brick lower wall, to sleep outside the window of my bedroom.  I am allergic to cat dander, but I rarely petted the cat, and the cat stayed outside all the time.

 

The dogs looked upon the cat as being ‘not like them’.  The cat was another species, in their view a lesser species.  The cat was also an immigrant to this land of theirs.  They were born here; the cat was not.

 

Does that sound familiar?

 

Actually, my wife and I have been the immigrants most of our lives, especially our married life.

 

She was born in Indonesia, moved to the Netherlands, then back to Indonesia.  When the Indonesian rebellion took over, her family had to decide, are they Dutch or are they Indonesian?  They moved back to the Netherlands.  In the Netherlands, there were few opportunities, so they moved to the USA through legal immigration.  They settled in El Paso, TX, but they moved to Port Arthur, TX, about 800+ miles away for my wife’s senior year in high school.  After my wife spent her time in the Air Force during the Vietnam War, she moved back home to Port Arthur.

 

I lived in Mississippi for my entire life until moving to Texas after graduating college, but we still moved a few times.  For a year during elementary school, we moved from northern Mississippi to southern Mississippi.  My Dad then got a job in Tupelo.  While he got settled and he and my mother moved to Tupelo, I went back to my old home town of Pontotoc, 20 miles from Tupelo but a different school system, living with my mother’s mother, MawMaw, to finish elementary school and finish the seventh grade.  By then, my parents had settled into a house in Tupelo.  I joined them there, and we lived there for three years.  We then moved back to Pontotoc.  I had gone to school with my classmates for eight of the twelve years, but I felt like the new kid for my last two years of high school.  The other classmates were great, about I felt different.  I was the outsider, the new kid.  Just as my wife was the new kid her senior year of high school.

 

Julie, of Cookie Crumbs to Live By, asked me once, where all have you lived?  Well, when my wife and I got married, we lived in Port Neches, TX, then Nederland, TX (both near her parents in Port Arthur – Port Acres for the longtime residents of the area).  I then moved to Fort Belvoir, VA, just outside Alexandria, VA (DC Area) for the Army’s version of engineering school.  From there we moved to Karlsruhe, West Germany, then I finished my military commitment in Watertown, MA.  I could see the cupolas of Harvard out our front window and MIT in the distance.  We then moved to North Augusta, SC for ten years.  When I prophesied a large layoff at the plant where I worked, I was shunned, but God provided a job offer in Iuka, MS, just before the layoffs started.  We moved to nearby Corinth, MS, then to Iuka, all totaled four years in NE Mississippi.  When that government site was closed, we moved to West Richland, WA for a year and a half.  We then moved to SW Pennsylvania where we have lived for 22 years.

 

We have always been the new kids in town, the ‘immigrants’, the outsiders.

 

When we lived in South Carolina, a friend told me of his ‘travels’.  He lived in North Augusta all his life, but his dad got a job in Florida.  They moved to Florida for three years, but then back to North Augusta for all four of his years in high school.  Since the people of that area of South Carolina bristled at the influx of people working at the government plant, they considered my friend, who had lived there all his life, except for three years, as an outsider.

 

With that in mind, it has never bothered us as we moved from place to place to have struggles making friends.  Some people are receptive to going from strangers to friends.  When we moved to Iuka, MS, one of my older son’s classmates referred to him as “fresh meat”.  Iuka is in the hills of northeast Mississippi.  It is hard to find someone in town that isn’t a distant cousin.  So, some people have their reasons to welcome newcomers, but a lot don’t.

 

Jesus told the parable of the good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37) to answer someone’s question: “Who is my neighbor?”  After all, Jesus had just told them to love their neighbor.  The Jews hated the Samaritans.  The Samaritans were cousins from the other tribes of Israel, but they had intermarried with the locals.  The Samaritans did not worship God at the temple.  But in the parable, the Samaritan had helped the person in need.

 

Sure, as C. S. Lewis pointed out, you can put puppies and kittens together and they will get along.  They’ll even portray characteristics of the other species at times.  You can do the same thing with people, but to get to know an outsider or for an outsider to become friends with a local?  It takes more than just showing up and saying, “Hello.”  To become noticed, then endured, then smiled at, then enjoyed, then appreciated, it takes showing God’s love toward others.

 

It takes helping the needy, just as the Samaritan had done.  It does not work helping those of influence.  If you help the influential, you obtain a false friendship.  They will take advantage of your giving nature.

 

Jesus said to love your enemies, but in that exhortation in Matthew 5:43-48, Jesus says that loving those who love you gains you no reward.  Even the tax collectors do that (v. 46).  No, to gain true friendship, help those who have no ability to respond in kind.

 

A friend said in his blog that he was going on a mission trip.  They were going to witness on the streets of a foreign country.  He was well-prepared.  He talked about how to share the Gospel.  He talked about praying with these strangers who were ready to accept Jesus as their Savior.  He said that you should encourage them to find a church of their choice, but you had to let them go.  You would never see them again.  At least, not here.  You’ll see them in heaven.

 

So, you may not again, in this world, see that stranger that you help without any thought of anything in return.  You will see them again in heaven.

 

That ought to be motivating.  Would it not be great to enter a banquet hall in Paradise and the room is packed with those whom you provided help?  Just think about that.

 

As for me, I am a hugger.  I tingle with anticipation.

 

Soli Deo Gloria.  Only to God be the Glory.

 

6 Comments

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  1. Lordy Mark…well one thing, I bet you can pack a box and a car like nobody’s business..but 22 years up in Pennsylvania….well, we’ll still claim those Southern roots down here 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

    • Yes, I seem to have very deep Southern roots. When we moved back to the US, I watched the German packing specialists very carefully. Nothing broke. It wouldn’t dare. That included crystal wine glasses and china. If we move again, I will probably pack everything myself. I’ll get others to carry it, but I don’t have to lift the boxes once packed.

      Liked by 2 people

  2. Well, Mark… I thought my husband and I had moved a lot… until I read this post! You take the cake for moving, my friend! But I love your attitude and your thoughts about “strangers” and being a good Samaritan are so inspiring! Thank you for this wonderful post! 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

  3. I grew up in Pennsylvania but live here in the southwest for almost 26 years. People still say to me when we speak to each other, “Your not from around here are you?’ I guess you can take the girl out of Philly but never the Philly out of the girl! Lol Mark you take the cake, or as I learned from living in the south, the ” pie auction ” for moving Mark!

    Liked by 1 person

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