Kathryn Jones Swearingen is my best friend. We met in the summer of 1988 in a drivers Ed classroom. The odds of this occurring really are slim but with a providential God it is not. See Kathryn went to a private school and I went to public school. Just like my sister, my parents paid for us to take drivers Ed classes in a private class rather than through the public school system. Back then the school program had a poor record of adequately training teenagers to drive and pass the NC State drivers exam. Because of my parents choice and her parents choice we met. That was the beginning of our friendship. During the past 25 years we have shared so many experiences, both good and bad, and through it all our friendship has grown stronger and deeper. When I think of our friendship I remember things that Kathryn has said and done. During the early years of our friendship she shared with me that anyone who did not take the time to get to know me, they were missing out on a great friendship. I knew then that our friendship meant as much to her as it did to me. In 2002 she was my guest at the Campbell Divinity School Graduate dinner. Her going with me was a huge affirmation that I was on the right track. Making the decision to go to Graduate school was always a scary thing even up until the final semester. Her presence was such and encouragement. She did something else at the dinner that I will never forget, she thanked the school for being their for me and being a place that I enjoyed attending. Her words that night helped me see God in a bigger way. In 2011 she and her then fiancé, Blake Swearingen, came to my ordination service. When we met in 1988 I could have never imagined May 15, 2011 but having her there on that special day was once again affirming of my life choices and the importance of our friendship to each other. But in November of 2011 she said something that took me right back to that day she said I was a very special person. She shared with me over dinner that Blake and her wanted me to officiate their wedding. Why does this mean so much? All of these things mean so much because we do not share a common faith, but none the less my friendship with her has brought me to two realizations:
- God's love extends to all, regardless of where they are in their journey on earth
- Kathryn is the closest thing to God I have here on earth.
God loves and accepts me just the way I am and works through my uniqueness to proclaim the Gospel, they same is for you. God loves me and us with out condition. I know this because God, my creator, chose to come down to earth, walk in human flesh and die on the cross for me and you. He did this for ALL of us. Lastly, God has never left my side and never abandoned me. In this life I have had people and institutions fail me, we all have but God, the God of creation is faithful always, to all of us.
Who I am as a person and as a minister is greatly influenced by Kathryn being in my life and I do not believe it is any accident that we met. When I think about our friendship I wonder if God teaches me to love and see creation as he does or if Kathryn, and who she is points me to God, to see God in a fuller way. I think it is a bit of both.
Within my belief system I see God, the creator of everything, as a relational God. God chooses to work in concert and cooperation with us. Through relationships we engage in the work of God whether we know it or not. We do so because we are living by example. Jesus' ministry was ALL about relationships. When we develop relationships we are living by example, God's example. Through us working with others we see God in a bigger and fuller way and those we have relationships with point us back to God. All in all we become better people, caring people, compassionate people.
Just as Kathryn is my best friend, God is my best friend.
Some pictures from over the past 25 years (including the wedding on October 18, 2013):
A friends wedding
Alive After Five
Pink Floyd Concert