28.5.09

Mourning a Friend Moving. A Tribute to Will

I'm in the process of grieving the fact that one of my best friends is moving. God brought Will into my life at a time when I needed close friendship more than I realized. Will has quickly become the bull in the well ordered china shop I call my life. The disruption has been an incredible experience.

I'm slowly writing my next book and thought I'd share a snippet from the draft that involves Will.

..

I became fast friends with Will through a mutual interest in the martial arts. I had earned a black belt in tae kwon do about five years ago and in fair physical shape. However, I stopped training about the time that I had my third child and I started writing books. A pair of full cheeks and a doughy middle was proof that health had fallen of my priority list. Will and his family had recently started attending Grace and I heard Will had a martial arts background. Knowing that I had to get back in shape, I approached Will about possibly working out together. Will agreed.

Our first workout consisted of some light sparring. The goal was to feel out each other’s workout styles of see if training together would be beneficial. I quickly learned that Will had undersold the extent of his training. Will revealed he had been a Marine drill instructor and that he had a background in karate and hand-to-hand combat. Will failed to mention that he had run a martial arts school in South Carolina. He also neglected to reveal that when the UFC began its expansion that they choose Will’s school as one of the first certified to teach their brand of cage fighting. He forgot to mention that he held five black belt. Will's a forgetful guy.

Saying that I was absolutely outclassed and overpowered would be an understatement. Still, Will chose to continue working out with me, and chose to start teaching me his ground game. Throughout the course of our workouts, Will began sharing his spiritual journey.

Will is an avid reader. I’ve only met a handful of people who share his commitment to life-long learning. Will had a deep interest in spirituality and read as much as he could get his hands on regarding Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, Quantum Physics, Wicca, Spiritualism, Deism, and Gnosticism.

Will settled on Wicca. He was drawn to the notion that “all paths led to the same center.” He explained a parable from India about six blind men who each stood next to an elephant and each touch a different part of the beast: the ivory tusk, the long trunk, a floppy ear, a stout leg, or the torso. When the blind men compared noted they fell into a sharp disagreement. Will explained that the difference in perspective among the blind men was analogous to religious knowledge. So instead arguing differences, pagans affirm truth in everything. This eclecticism allowed Will to side step that tension between faith and doubt. If Will encountered a pagan myth that didn’t resonate intellectually, Will could simply discard it and find another story that suited him better. This flexibility allowed Will to avoid the uncomfortable work of evaluating whether a belief was true or not. Will’s only task was to decide if the teaching suited his own life. The goal was ergonomics not apologetics.

God had different ideas for Will and began speaking to him. He despised Christianity but he was intimate with it. Will had grown up in a Christian home but rejected the faith after loosing both parents at an early age.The seismic shifts in the real estate industry which predated our current recession were drying up Will’s business. Will had fashioned himself into his own God, but the dried up economy forced Will to realize that he was not in control of his personal universe.

Will returned to his spiritual roots and began reading C.S. Lewis. Will says that he was “becoming a believer” but intellectual doubts were swirling in his head. As Will reacquainted himself with God, he realized that affirming Christianity necessitated a belief that the other religions were not true. Will had exposed himself to so many religious systems, he was certain that even after he “said the magic prayer” that he’d be questioning his decision for the rest of his life. Will wasn’t sure that he could live out an existence where faith and doubt would forever be intertwined. Will did not want a faith that endured in spite of his intellect.

Late one night Will signed onto an online Christian discussion board and typed these words:

“In my heart, I want to believe. But I’m afraid that my intellect won’t allow me. I don’t want to spend my life second guessing myself.”

Someone quickly replied with scripture: “For the wisdom of this world is foolishness with God, For it is written, he taketh the wise in their own craftiness.” (1 Cor 3:19).

Will remembers electricity running down his spine and the hairs on his arm standing on end. Will knew that he was being confronted by the truth after a lifetime of rage. Tears came to his eyes. Will knew. He had always known. He just chose to ignore it.

Still, Will could not bring himself to embrace Jesus, not with the lingering doubt. He slept on it.

The next day, Will was filled with the excitement of knowing that God was involved in his story and that God was drawing Will to himself. Still he wasn’t ready to cross the line of faith. He was not ready to embrace the doubt that inevitably accompanies a commitment to someone else. Will wasn’t ready to tell his family that he was about to the convert from being a pagan, hostile to all-things-Christian, to a follower of Jesus. So Will kept his spiritual turmoil to himself.

Evening came and Will interrupted his spiritual wrestling to enjoy Chinese takeout with his family. Dinner ended and his daughter chose a fortune cookie for Will that he keeps in his Bible to this day:

“The heart is wiser than the intellect.”

3 comments:

  1. That is such a cool story, Larry. The ending, with the fortune cookie, is so moving. Thanks for sharing!

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  2. i always have a hard time when someone i'm close to moves away, it's almost as if they've died. i hope you're able to keep in touch with him and keep up with his story, it sounds like there will be plenty more excitement to come. thanks for sharing!

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  3. Great story! Spiritual coincidences always amaze me. Thank you for sharing.

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