As soon as he had finished speaking to Saul, the soul of Jonathan was knit to the soul of David, and Jonathan loved him as his own soul….Then Jonathan made a covenant with David, because he loved him as his own soul. — 1 Samuel 18:1, 3
On the heels of the victory of Goliath and the Philistines, David is called before King Saul and identifies himself as the son of Jesse. In that moment, David’s relationship with the royal family changed forever. Saul is immediately fearful of David, a fear that leads Saul to eventually oppose David at every turn, seeking his downfall as a means of preserving his own administration. Yet, Saul’s son — and the heir to throne, at least in Saul’s mind — responds in a decidedly different fashion. Jonathan binds himself to David in perhaps the Bible’s most beautiful description of friendship. Jonathan and David are bound together in a covenant of respect, admiration, and mutual friendship.
In the past, I’ve made the mistake of saying that the Bible only speaks of covenant with regard to two relationships: relationship with God and relationship with one’s spouse. But I’ve overlooked the implications of covenantal friendship, two people’s whose souls are “knit” together in the sight of God as lifelong partners in friendship.
I’ve been fortunate to have not one such relationship, but several. Here are just a few of my personal Jonathans:
Lane Widick is probably my oldest and best friend. We met in middle school when my mother and I moved into the neighborhood where Lane and his family lived. We immediately hit it off and have been fast friends ever since. This young man has been by my side in some of the most important moments of my life. When my mother passed away, Lane was there for me, a presence of peace and laughter that I so desperately needed in that dark hour. When we drove to the graveside to lay her to rest, Lane was seated right beside me, the only person I wanted to be there in that time of pain. He has shared not only in my moments of grief, but also in moments of tremendous joy, flanking me as I exchanged vows with Sunny and being present on the day my youngest son was born. We rode to school together, got in trouble together, went to youth group together, and now, we share in the joy of ministry together. Lane is truly one of the most talented people I know and I’m grateful to call him my brother. Lane, you have embodied God’s enduring love to me so well these past 25 years. For that, I love you.
I also met Matt Wimberley in middle school. Matt was the “new kid” in our class (8th grade, I think?) and over the years I spent countless hours with him. Even at a young age, Matt was a young man of great integrity. Those who know me well know that I’ve always had a bit of a mischievous streak, but God has always been faithful to surround me with people of goodness, people like Matt who could temper some of my less-than-exemplary impulses. Our little group of friends spent untold hours in Matt’s home, watching ball games, playing cards, laughing out loud, and enjoying his mother’s fantastic cooking. We roomed together for three years at Lipscomb, which gave me an even deeper glimpse of Matt’s innate goodness. People use the phrase “he’s a good man” too liberally, in my view. But in the case of Matt Wimberley, the words are spot on. Matt, your goodness has made a difference in my life and I’m excited to see how God continues to use you in the years to come.
My junior year at Lipscomb, I met a skinny transfer from Faulkner in one of my Bible major classes. He was really quiet at first and I’m pretty sure I didn’t make a great first impression with him, but God knew what He was doing when he put Corey Trevathan in my life. We shared an internship together that summer and we immediately recognized a like-mindedness in our approach to youth ministry. But my soul was knit to Corey’s when I listened to him pray. He spoke to God in such a personal way and I desired to know God in the way Corey knew Him. In the nearly 20 years since we met, this man’s friendship has been nothing less than transformative for me. I marvel at his heart for worship, his tenacious work ethic, and his ability to communicate God’s heart to others. I don’t suppose I’ll ever get tired of making him laugh so hard he can hardly breathe. Corey, you have expanded the borders of God’s Kingdom in my heart in so many ways. As long as there is breath in my body, I will covet your prayers on my behalf. I can’t wait for the day when we get to dangle our feet in the river of life together. I love you, brother.
I first met Jon Stacy in the hospital after the birth of his first child. Little did I know that in that little hospital room God was bringing another lifelong friend into my life. Jon and I have shared much over the past decade and change: deep conversations about spiritual matters, the challenges of loving our wives and children well, our fears, our love for the Lord and the church. My family has shared hundreds of hours in communion with Jon’s family, gathered around one table or another, enjoying food and fellowship and lots of “last pieces of chicken.” Jon wears his heart on his sleeve and I love him for it. Literally, I don’t think there’s anything the man can’t do: crunch numbers, fix cars, learn Spanish, woodworking, coordinate ministry teams, raise money, even kill rats with a BB gun! (Seriously, you’re a cowboy, Jon.) A few years ago, God called Jon and his young family to western Honduras to serve as missionaries and they responded in faith. Jon, you are a born leader and it is an absolute joy to see you using these gifts daily in Kingdom service.
I could go on and on, but you get the idea. These are just a few of my “Jonathans” the men who are on my personal Mount Rushmore of friends. I am thankful for these and so many others whose friendship has made an eternal difference in my life and who I am “knit” to in the love of God.