Not every act of God is flamboyant, earth-shattering, breaking news, or a Bible passage. Sometimes, the act of God is a gentle suggestion to turn around and ask the man behind you where are the good churches in this new city. A casual question in the middle of a classroom doesn’t normally become 15 years’ worth of friendship, but God planned something that day I couldn’t fathom would become such a degree of importance to me.
The very first year of college, sitting in Psychology class, I raised my freshman hand and asked a question I don’t even remember. I was essentially asking, “How does your science align with my Christian faith?” I was warned that college attempts to educate the Christ right out of you, and I noticed such tactics very early. Very early, I decided I’d point everything back to God, whether it was Political Science, Philosophy, English, or Psychology.
From my view, science and education do not contradict Christianity, they only affirm Christianity. The only things they contradict is our interpretation of God, His creations, and previous theories erected by past scientists. This was my mentality when I raised my hand and asked my question of the teacher.
Then, this dark skin, skinny but athletically-built man turned around in his seat and asked, “Ey, you know any good churches around here? I’m new to Houston and wanted to find a church home.”
I replied, “Oh nah, I’m from Katy. I only know about Lakewood inside the city.”
“Oh, ok. Preciate it.”
Little did I know, this young man, named Rob, would become the type of brother scripture is written about.
A true friend sticking closer than a brother slowly became a reality. The wisdom of King Solomon continues to exceed his era. Within four years, Rob grew closer to me than anyone has ever attempted to be in my life. He, being the social one, initiated the friendship. I only agreed to reciprocate. Shortly after that simple question about a church home, we exchanged numbers, started having conversations for hours, and were hanging out.
When the semester came to a close, I thought that would’ve been the end of our journey. After all, if we don’t have class together, when would we see each other? The answer quickly followed as we continued to fellowship and grow together. At this point, we were a part of each other’s weekend 2-4 times a month. He became 90% of my social life as I was juggling school and work.
When I first met Rob, I was a shy guy who often kept to himself and his family. I didn’t go out much and if I was out, I didn’t say much. I had to get really comfortable with you in order to open up and show the parts of me that people love. However, with Rob as a socialite, the ability to stay the silent one became harder and harder as questions from others would start to involve the both of us and not just him. Little by little, I was having to show my personality sooner than I’d liked, but it didn’t scare me.
Rob fostered an environment that allowed me to be my inquisitive, religious, opinionated, and demanding self without me realizing it. When it came to religion, sex, relationships, drinking, clubbing, sports, or just talk about being Black men in America, I could delve into deep conversations with him without fear of judgement or condemnation. I became more confident in myself because I knew my boy had my back.
I enjoyed our friendship so much that I moved into the same apartment complex he lived after a year of getting to know each other. That’s how much I trusted him. With us only being across the street from each other, the adventures increased. Suddenly, “Where’s Rob?” became the common question from other friends. We seemed to always be together, even though we had our separate events, friends, and lives.
In that small amount of time, we also had opportunities to be there for one another when life hit us hard. From loved ones going to jail and breakups to physical injuries and occupational firings. We carried each other through disheartening realities about life and finances. Through it all, we picked each other up, encouraged one another, and made each other laugh.
By the end of the first decade, we had traveled to several cities, been workout partners, worshipped at the same church, worked at the same jobs, watched each other walk the stage for graduation, and had even been in a wedding together. It wasn’t a surprise that people thought we were joined at the hip. We did so much together. For a period, he was even my next-door neighbor (I left the apartment complex for a time and came back when life changed again). Our memories, both good and bad, are endless.
However, the day our friendship became a brotherhood, for me, happened on my birthday. My birthday is the same day every year, and every year I throw together a selection of events for my friends and family to attend. Every birthday, there is a friend who does not make time nor plan to spend my birthday with me.
This trend started very early. I’d find myself missing close friends when they had two weeks, at least, to prepare and two to three days to select from (because I celebrate me for multiple days). These same friends I’d take off for or find a way to come to their events on their birthdays, but when it came to my birthday, I had to hear, “Oh, I have work,” or, “I’m already committed to another event.”
It didn’t bother me until it clearly bothered Rob. We were drinking and dancing at a club as we had always done. It was another birthday where the dozens of invites dwindled down to us two in attendance. That’s when he admitted it aggravated him when they didn’t show up.
He vented, wondering where all my friends were when my birthday came around. He was the only consistent one. He made time to come to my events. He didn’t just create an event of his own to celebrate me (which I’m still grateful for, but there’s a difference). He didn’t understand how I endured it, but declared he’d always be there to celebrate me. Over a decade later, and he has not missed any birthday, despite where he’s lived, who he’s dated, or where I decided we’d go. It is something I truly appreciate.
It is not only the celebrations, but also the times of poor decisions. He is the only person who knows me personally and has seen me blackout drunk (and he didn’t record me for his entertainment). He is one of three people who know me and have seen me high (and he did not record me for his entertainment). He is one of the few men to have ever seen me cry, whether it be from outside factors or my own failures (and he did not judge me weak or soft). He has seen me at my highest and my lowest, and he has stuck with me. He has never judged me despite half of the ludicrous thoughts, opinions, and feelings I’ve had. We understand we’re different, and we understand that doesn’t negate our love for one another.
There’s a maturity to our brotherhood that has often made it hard to add a third companion to the duo. We sin, but we pray for one another and give grace for our mistakes. We let each other grow up at our own pace instead of forcing each other to match our growth. We actually tell each other, “I love you,” and embrace one another when we see each other again. We share our goals, hopes, plans, and struggles with one another.
Our brotherhood is so strong, we don’t even live in the same city anymore and he has still visited my house more than those who live in my city. He’s one of three people who I figure will even read this post, let alone come back and give me feedback. At this point, the only person I ever expect to be closer to me than him is my wife (and obviously Jesus Christ). There’s so much history.
No one will know what piss nuggets, we thank Him for the bees that zzz zzz zzz, D Wade with 82 points, losing to Justin Bieber, bazooka, Desiree, next in line at Metropolis, I forgot to get her number, Tight End screen for a touchdown, or my dad from Scotland played in Braveheart. They’ll be forced to watch us laugh at ourselves and to ourselves as we then explain the meanings (which I’m not doing here).
It is not overstating it to say that if I ever lost Rob, I would lose such a huge chunk of me with him. His impact on my life is so great that I would be devastated if he passed. I can admit I am a little afraid of who I will be without my brother. His death will be just about the same gut-wrenching feeling as my blood brothers, my parents, my grandparents, my sister, or my nieces and nephews. Life just wouldn’t be as enjoyable without him.
He is the type of friend you have to bring along with you on your journey. I liken him to a Nathan for King David, or perhaps I am Nathan and he is King David. Perhaps, one of us is Joshua and the other Caleb. Who knows, but the Lord. I just know he is one whom I take into consideration when attempting to plan for fifty years from now. My family will care for his family and his family for my family.
I don’t normally like to highlight people, because I’m grateful for them all. I could make a post about my brother Malcolm, my mom, my dad, my uncle and aunt (the only two I acknowledge), or other people who have endured me, loved me, and allowed me to grow. However, there has always been a different dynamic for the both of us, and after thinking on it for a while, I concluded that it was because God was there.
This brotherhood would’ve never began had God not encouraged Rob to turn around and ask Dario where to find a church. The memories we have would’ve never came to pass had God not encouraged me to enjoy a new friend. One of the most frequent places God is in is in our relationships. From mother to son, father to daughter, brother to brother, friend to friend, associate to stranger, and authority to servant, God can be found in each relationship we experience. It is up to us to make it a blessing or a lesson.
Next time someone stops you to ask a question, perhaps show some love by responding. You never know when God will have a lifetime brother or sister ready to bless your life. Don’t get caught up in appearances because the heart, character, and faith are the most important and lasting things. If my brother has taught me anything, it is that people deserve a chance to be given the space to be themselves. They deserve a chance to grow, make mistakes, and be celebrated despite. If anything, my brother has proven God’s word to be true. There is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.