The Friend I Had Never Met

By Ward Shope

During a party today, a friend I had never met before sat down at the table where my wife, Debbie, and I were sitting. While actively engaged in another conversation, but still wanting to draw the circle a bit wider, we introduced ourselves. Generally I listen closely to the first name and let the second slide. After all, rarely do you expect to meet someone again that you’ve never met for the first 59 years of your life. Still, my name is fairly unique and I noticed that it had pricked his attention. So I asked him again what his last name was. When he told me, we quickly got up, shook hands vigorously, and fell into a bear hug – much to the amazement and amusement of our wives!

Tim and I had met each other more than 10 years ago – on the phone. That first call was a business call which developed into a warm exchange. Over the years, other phone calls and emails followed. I confess that we never intentionally pursued friendship. Each contact was business-provoked and, at the same time, kindred in spirit. Our ministry and church circles were intertwined and I would hear things about him, but somehow the Lord orchestrated our lives in such a way that we never ended up in the same space at the same time. It was only at this “chance” meeting at a party after all these years that we saw each other face to face – and all of sudden realized who we were.

It probably should not be unlike that each time a believer meets another. As God’s calling to each of us comes through the redemption of Jesus Christ, and as each of us matures and grows into a servant of God’s one kingdom, we find ourselves drawn into the similar circles of service and commitment. People we have never met before during our earthly days are all of a sudden divinely revealed to us and discovered as kindred spirits, sharing in the same kingdom efforts often anywhere in the world we happen to be. We ‘belong to one body and one Spirit – just as we were called to one hope – one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all’ (Eph 4:1-6).

When the kingdom finally comes in, this surprising and amazing discovery of friends we had heard about but never met face to face will be commonplace, but never common. Instead, there will be spontaneous joy with hugs all around as we realize who we are.

Tim invited me to get together with him face to face again. I think I’ll take him up on his offer.