This is perhaps the longest story I have to tell. After all, I’m only 24 years old, and this story has taken almost ten years to unfold. But here’s my best shot:
I don’t remember the first time Ryan attended Christian Fellowship Center. I was a young thirteen or fourteen year old in pretty pink seersucker pants with not much knowledge of the world beyond what got brought to my attention through an occasional testimony. But I distinctly remember him and his friend walking in one night, and I probably stared. His hat was pulled low and crooked, thick silver hoops pierced both of his ears, a large shirt hung over even larger Cross Color jeans, and–did I say he walked in? Well, I meant limped. He most definitely was limping down the center aisle, right behind his identical-in-appearance friend.
We probably talked whenever we saw each other, then, because at some point shortly thereafter, we became friends. He told me his testimony one night, and all of the things that Jesus had saved him from, and I remember being freshly overwhelmed by the love and mercy of God, and freshly grateful for what God had done for me, too. And from then on, Ryan was constantly inspiring me in my love for the Lord.
We hung out almost every day that summer. Church meetings, evangelism, work around the house, planning hiking trips–it was non-stop and fun. But fall invaded our careless summer, and we all went back to our own worlds–he to college and his friends, me to high school and my piano. We quickly settled into a comfortable friendship of a familial quality, a bond which deepened and strengthened over time and through experiences. He proved himself to be a brother born to help in time of need–any kind of need–and a brother who constantly challenged me to do the hard things and apprehend Christ. I would marvel at his patience with me as I fumbled and stumbled through my last teenage years, and was all the more blessed by his constancy.
During my first semester at college he moved away. Oh, quick memory that tells what kind of friendship we had: The night before my classes began, he told me to grab my class schedule and the map of the campus. I remember sitting with him in his car, telling him the class locations, while he pointed out the building, the closest parking, and gave me advice on where to sit for different types of classes–advice I, without even thinking, made habit for the rest of my college years. He was the big brother I’d never had.
Anyway, he moved to California and did the dot-com thing while I was back in New York, practicing piano and having my love and devotion to the Lord refined and focused. I developed a habit of religiously checking my email, convinced that if I was faithful to communicate via writing, people would stop calling me altogether and my life would improve radically. (I hate the phone!) Every few months, out of the blue, I would receive a message from Ryan. Oh, was I always thrilled! He would check up on me, and tell about life out on the Pacific Coast, and what the Lord had been doing. I would read it for several days, making sure that I really had wrapped my mind around the theological concepts he was exploring (which was another very enjoyable facet of our friendship–the intellectually stimulating debates!) and I’d eventually write my long reply. Perhaps I would hear back from him; often I didn’t. Usually another six months would lapse before his name would appear in m inbox once again.
After my third year of college, during that summer, I had a challenging decision before me: to continue school (it would have been a couple of more years, at least) or realize that I had gotten what I needed from my education, and that God was asking me to develop other areas of my life. When my father first mentioned the possibility, it stuck in my heart like a word from the Lord, but oh! Was it hard! One weekend, in the midst of these throes, who should call but Ryan, who then lived in Maine. I told him all about my decision, cried about how hard it was, and then listened to him as he, rather than directly responding, stirred my heart toward the Lord. He reminded me of the conversations we’d had about wanting nothing more than Christ, about how we wanted to live as focused on the Age to Come as was possible, and about the goodness of God that we can count on, even when we’re not sure what it will look like. Three days of such conversations (and many prayers and discussions with my parents-and crying!) and I was ready to move forward with what my spirit had already determined was the call of God. And I knew that if there was any friend who understood loving the Lord the way I understood it, it was Ryan. His friendship was growing more and more priceless as the years went by and as we grew in maturity and experience.
So more emails every six months, a phone call or two…and somewhere in there we began to hash out the idea of singleness as defined by the Apostle Paul in 1 Corinthians 7. Once again, we were often on the same page, even when on opposite coasts. I had begun to struggle with New Testament concepts juxtaposed with the Old Testament, and how then we should live. Ryan and I certainly did not always agree all along the way, but through our conversations, I was able to think through and get a vision for living wholeheartedly in my calling. The more that we stirred one another to the Lord, the more content I was to leave the world behind and be satisfied with doing His will.