Monday, November 7, 2011

My Friend Philip



Fr. Dale Matson

            I have known my close friend Phillip for over 50 years. He is one of the most gifted individuals I have ever met both physically and intellectually. His doctorate is in Geology and his profession was the analysis of rocks for Chevron. However, he could have been successful at anything he put his hand to. While he has been a scientist evaluating the physical world, he has done so with the eyes and ears of an artist. I am honored that someone like Phil would be and remain a lifelong friend to someone such as me who lacked Phil’s native aptitudes. Phil has always had a handicap. He has not needed God. Things have been easy for him; too easy. He has never had to rely on anyone else. Age and a nearly fatal motorcycle accident have provided an evolving but uncharacteristic humility and a willingness to listen more carefully. Like Jacob, he now walks with a limp.
             We have shared similar personal struggles and earlier lives which included mutual close friends, drunkenness, addiction to cigarettes and failed marriages. Like lifelong friends, we can share the minutia of the day at great length over the phone.  
            When Phil retired, he moved to a rural setting and enjoys the time he spends on his tractor and in his shop. He is also married a Roman Catholic woman who is active in her church and community on behalf of her church. She walks the walk and this has had an effect on Phil. She has not just his love but his respect. Phil listens to and learns from those he respects. He has no patience for those he does not respect.
            Our friendship has survived two crises. When I came back to Christ and witnessed to him about my need for Christ, I think Phil was disappointed in me. I’m sure he thought it was a weakness and a delusion. Unbelief had been a long shared mutual perspective. Being a Christian created a distance for a time. Being a Christian changes relationships and ended another close friendship. The second crisis was when I quitting drinking. I sent him a letter expressing my concern for his drinking. I struggled with sending the letter but finally mailed it. There was a long period with no response. I was concerned that perhaps I had been too confrontive about it. As it turned out, he finally did respond and said he would not allow my letter to threaten a lifelong friendship.
            In a recent conversation, I told Phil about a vision of Christ I had experienced at the end of the Eucharist. He remembered and recounted another vision that I had told him about. I said I would take some time to sort this out. He offered to write out some of his questions for me and I have them in hand. I will include them in my next posting.
            The point of this story is to offer a context for my response and a hope to those of you who have a burden on your heart that God has placed there for an individual in your life. I believe that God has been involved in preparing Phil’s heart for Christ his whole life. I also believe that Phil is correctly convinced that his lifelong friend has not been diminished by his relationship to Christ but has transcended both a miserable and an ordinary life because of Christ. Like any good scientist, he has the longitudinal evidence for this.
“I can do all things through Christ Who strengthens me.”   (Philippians 4:13).
                

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