By DANNY MINTON
I had the privilege this past year of helping send off one of my high school football teammates. His name was Carl. Carl was a lineman playing in front of me for six years on our Plano Wildcat football team. He was always a good friend with a special laugh and sense of humor. Even now, over 50 years after we graduated high school, I can still hear his voice and that laugh. He was a good man, and although I only saw him a few times over the past 50 years, we remained friends with a special bond.
Our 1966 high school class in Plano was close. Many of us went from first grade to graduation, sharing birthdays, class parties and teachers along the way. I can look at a picture of our graduating class today and even after all this time name just about every one of them, if not all of them. I’ll add that you could more than likely ask any of my classmates and they could do the same.
But there was another bond within this class that included Carl and me. That bond was our Wildcat football team. Several of us played together for six years. We were blessed with good coaches and examples through those years and grew together not only as a team but a brotherhood. We were successful losing never more than one game in any season. Most of us on the team were good but average players with a few who were college material. Our success came because we played as a team. We played where we were needed, not one person was seeking personal glory or attention. We grew together, this brotherhood of teenagers, battling on the field and comrades with our classmates off the gridiron.
Several are gone now, Carl, Hugh, Steve, Jimmy and Kent, seniors who helped lead us to the championship our last year in high school. Warriors and friends who will not be forgotten, guys I laughed with, cried with and battled with for all those years so long ago but not forgotten.
It is relationships like these that help us in our battles of life. I cannot count the number of times that someone has come to me after a crisis in their life and said, “I don’t know how people make it without a church family!” These words come after they have felt that support and seen their church family in action. This “team” of believers and comrades are there to lift them up and embrace them with love.
We all need groups of fellow warriors to be there for us, praying for us and with us, lifting each other up and holding our hands as we move through life together. One of the worst things that people can do when a crisis appears in their life is to back away from those who love them and are there to support them. The writer of Ecclesiastes expressed the need for our bond of friends in Ecclesiastes 4:9-12: “Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor: If either of them falls down, one can help the other up. But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up. Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm. But how can one keep warm alone? Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.” (NIV)
I am blessed today to have that cord of three strands on several levels. We need always to be mindful of where our strength comes. The strongest cord comes when we attach ourselves to our fellow Christians entwined with that third strand of God in our lives. That is a bond that will last for as long as we live, unbreakable by what life or Satan may try to do to tear it apart.
I know this for certain, because of a bond that I have with a group of guys and friends from over 50 years ago. Even though we are miles apart in all directions and separated by years, that bond remains intact and unbroken.
Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.
Danny Minton is Pastoral Minister and Elder at Southern Hills Church of Christ