Hard to Find

[So, by way of prologue, this post is maybe a little different than my norm -- maybe a little more personal, maybe a little more in-depth, and maybe not something I would bother posting on my blog if life was different and more friends could have already observed for themselves the underlying themes of what I'm about to say.  One of the tricky parts of a long distance relationship is figuring out how to honor the relationship and let it be a reality even when most people can't see what's going on in it.]

It's a confounding thing to me when I simply can't find the words to even begin to express what's in my heart.  Yet that's where I've been for months, my mind full of different ways to begin but with no idea what to say in the middle or at the end, because it feels to me that there aren't enough words in the world for this story.

Let me begin here: When I was a child, I loved Little Pilgrim's Progress with a vast and fierce love.  My parents bought me Judy Rogers' album based on that book and the song about Faithful in particular caught my heart.

As I traveled on my journey, few and far between
Were the pilgrims I found faithful to their loving King.
Soon I overtook a young man walking in the way,
And I could see within his eyes that he was there to stay.
He was faithful as a brother;
He was faithful as a friend;
Looking for a lasting city, 
He was faithful to the end.

And so that is what -- who -- I asked the Father for, for years and years.  A man who was faithful to follow Him, who would be a faithful friend to me.

Most of you, I'd guess, who read my blog already know me well enough to know something about Jason.  We met in college my first week of school, thanks to Dagorhir, and we were friends.  Yet somehow despite the fact that he was a key player in some significant moments, repeatedly turning up as a faithful friend who both called me out on prideful foolishness and encouraged me when I felt utterly overwhelmed, I didn't consider (at all) that he might be an answer to what I had asked for.  (If you imagine me as a mixture between Hermione Granger's devotion to study -- with its corresponding wear and tear on relationships -- and Bathsheba Everdeen's headstrong independence, that would be fairly accurate.)

During my senior year of college, it came to me like a thunderbolt that I deeply valued kindness, and that was added to what I asked of the Father.  Faithful and deeply kind.

So we were friends, but I can't claim to have been a particularly good friend.  When I left to teach in China right after my graduation, I went far beyond "friend zoning" him and jumped straight into "we don't talk anymore" territory.

For three years.

At which point I was living in Bloomington and getting ready to move back to China for three years.  I had realized that while many places around the world could claim a part of my heart, western Pennsylvania will always be especially dear to me, especially where I feel at home.  And so I added a rather random category to what I asked.  How about if he likes country music and looking at stars?

I don't think I even liked country music then.

Anyway, one day Jason's picture showed up as I was scrolling through facebook.  Wow, I miss him, I thought, only to be struck a second later by the gut-wrenching realization that I had only myself to blame for the fact that I hadn't heard from this (former) friend in years.  I couldn't really blame him for honoring my wish to be left alone.

I need to apologize, I thought with sudden horror.  Which revelation was immediately followed by several days of me rationalizing how I couldn't possibly need to apologize.  Those excuses were brought to a screeching halt on Sunday morning as I sat in the convention center where Hope was meeting, and I (miserably) sent him a message, vaguely asking if he was free that afternoon to talk for a while.  I was probably hoping to drop dead on the walk back to my apartment that day, but I didn't.  So we talked.

In the words of Mumford & Sons, "You forgave, and I won't forget."

And then we kept talking, and talking, and talking, until all of my coworkers and friends were asking about why my phone was blowing up all the time.  I'll cut short that history because I'll go on forever if I keep trying to write out the details, and I want to get to the point of what I'm saying.

I've been thinking a lot about how incredibly and increasingly thankful I am for having Jason around in my life.  He is one of the most compassionate, most creative, most patient, most humble, most funny people I've ever known.  He has encouraged me to develop dreams and to pursue the Father's calling even when it's inconvenient or costly for himself.  He has kept me company via endless messages at all hours of the day and night while I travel around the world.  He has spoken truth to me when I've been discouraged and stressed.  He's sent loads of elephant pictures.  He's picked me up at the airport and dropped me off at the train station.  He's stayed in touch despite time differences and conflicting schedules, despite the constant dance of "let's try facebook... okay, whatsapp... okay... signal.... okay... never mind... I'm going to sleep."  He's made me laugh and let me cry.

So while Flannery O'Connor's title A Good Man is Hard to Find has always stuck in my mind, I would say that this has been true in my own life mostly because it took me a very long time to realize what a good man I already had in my life.  He is faithful and kind in a thousand ways that I never even dreamed of.

And he even likes country music and looking at stars.


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