Last night I went with a few friends to watch the Canada Day fireworks show at Miliken Park in Scarborough. I first proposed the idea because I wanted to learn to photograph fireworks, and since my two other friends are also into photography and we are all at the same level, I thought it’ll be a good learning experience together.
So the five of us walked over to the park together. We started getting excited when we saw how packed the park was. “Wow, with this many people showing up, this must be good!” Unfortunately, the fireworks show itself wasn’t that impressive. And since this was our first attempt at fireworks photography, we made plenty of rookie mistakes which we hopefully will not repeat in our next attempt. (Lesson #1: When photographing fireworks, do not set up your tripod in front of a tall tree)
So we were all standing there watching lame fireworks and taking pictures of a tall dark tree at night. But somehow we were having a great time with each other. In between blast of fireworks, it occured to me that since I resigned from the church almost 10 months ago (!), I have found my most faithful friendships in the most unexpected places. The old cliche goes: “A friend is someone who walks in when the world walks out.” While I had experienced much of the “walking out” from those whom I thought I could count on, I have learned to treaure those who have decided to “walk in”, like those whom I was with last night.
They were part of a group of young(er) folks that we used to “mentor” when I was with the church. Over the years the “mentor-mentee” relationship had transformed into a genuine friendship among peers. (Part of that no doubt happened because they quickly discovered I really didn’t have anything to offer as a “mentor” :). Since “the incident” happened, they were the one group that had absolutely refused to abandon us. They kept coming over to the house to hang out and to eat. They kept including us in weekend activities and day trips. Even though they didn’t know and much less understood what had happened and what I am going through, I felt loved, accepted and respected by them.
This comes through even in the little things: For years, whenever we eat together I was the “go to guy” to pray for the food. For different reasons, I have stopped “saying grace” before meals while I struggle and try to figure out what it means to authentically live as a person of faith. The first time we sat down for a meal after my resignation, without missing a beat, they all just bow and prayed privately for the meal. There was no big speech, no awkward silence as people look around for someone to “do the prayer”. They all just bowed, took a moment to pray, and got on with the food. It was almost their way of saying, “It doesn’t matter if you are our pastor. It matters more that you are our friend.”
As the last blast of fireworks faded into the evening, we packed up our cameras and walked back to the car. We laughed about the poor fireworks, we laughed about our poorer attempts to photograph them, we laughed about how much a waste of time it was. In the midst of that laughter, I felt strangely blessed. It was only appropriate. Afterall, I was among friends.