Tom, Edward, and I became the best of friends during our Senior year in high school. Although Tom and Edward had already been best friends for quite some time, I very quickly grew close to them, and we became a "threesome." By the end of my Senior year in high school, I considered Tom and Edward to be the best friends that I had ever had up until that time. We did almost everything together. We even referred to ourselves as the "three musketeers" Hence, the title of this chapter. One night at my Baptist church's youth meeting, "Brother" Mark preached a message based on I Samuel 18:1-4. In this passage, God "knit" the souls of Jonathan and David together. I told this to Edward and Tom, and all three of us began to believe that our friendship was "knit together" by God.
However, as I mentioned in a previous chapter, Edward had not yet truly come to Christ. Edward was confronted with the reality of this fact shortly after the beginning of our Senior year. One day, Edward and I were working on a lab assignment in our Physics class. Edward started singing songs by Petra, the Christian rock band. He made loud drum and guitar sound effects. This bothered me because Edward seemed to be focusing more on the music than on the lyrics. In my mind, this gave credibility to the criticism expressed of Don and Dan that Christian rock was wrong because it focused on the music rather than on God. I didn't agree with what Dan and Don believed about rock music, but I became afraid that Edward's actions were giving "evidence" that Don and Dan could use to enhance their criticism. I therefore wanted Edward to have a stronger concern for the lyrics. These concerns caused me to "confront" Edward.
"Edward," I said, "it isn't a very good 'witness' for you to be rockin' that hard." (In reality, Edward probably wasn't presenting a "bad witness" for Christ by having fun with the music. My true concern was what Don and Dan would think, but I wasn't honest with Edward about this. Nevertheless, God was about to use this confrontation to bring Edward to Him!)
"Why not?" Edward asked in response to my criticism.
"You're concentrating on the music and ignoring the message."
Edward didn't like my comment. He got mad at me and began to make louder musical sound effects. I backed off and said nothing more because I was frustrated and I didn't know what else to say. It was at that moment that I began to wonder if Edward was really a Christian. I thought to myself, "Why would he act like that if he was really a Christian?"
Edward talked to his mom about "spiritual things" that night. I don't know exactly what they said to each other, but I do know that whatever was said, Edward realized that he wasn't really "saved." He picked up one of the "Are You Sure . . .?" tracts and said the prayer that was on it. He received Jesus Christ as his Lord and savior.
The next day, Edward and Tom told me what happened. Edward had already told Tom.
"Bob!" Edward said, "I just got 'saved' last night!"
"What?" I said, half surprised.
He then told me the details of what happened.
"I was really wondering whether or not you were 'saved,'" I said. "After all, you didn't seem too concerned about your 'witness' yesterday."
"He knew you were right," Tom said.
"Yeah!" Edward said. 'That's why I did it even more!"
"And also," I said, "I was wondering if you were really 'saved' because you once told me that you keep your Christianity to yourself. If you're really a Christian, then you don't keep it to yourself. You also didn't seem very concerned about our 'witness' at Sandy Pines last summer."
"I didn't understand why you were so upset about what happened at Sandy Pines," Edward said. "Now I do."
Edward, Tom, and I decided to have a Bible study together. We chose to do it on the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5, 6, and 7. We met several times at Edward's house in the basement where his bedroom was. On one of the nights that we met, Edward and Tom were telling a lot of good insights that they had as we read and studied the chapters. I started to get a little frustrated because I didn't feel that I was coming up with any special insights. Finally we read the verse that said, "Let your light so shine before men that they may see your good works and glorify your Father which is in heaven" (Matthew 5:16). I remembered something I had heard in church about how even a little light, such as a candle, can "chase" the darkness away. In other words, darkness cannot exist even when there is the slightest amount of light. I told this to Tom and Edward and they smiled and told me that what I had said was good. This made me happier, but I was still a little frustrated because I didn't think of it on my own; I borrowed what I had heard in church. I wondered if I would ever have anything good to say that I had thought of all by myself.
Tom had a cousin named Bonnie. Bonnie was not "saved," so Tom, Edward, and I began to put a lot of pressure on her to "get saved." Every time that we saw her, we harassed her about giving her life to Christ. We did away with friendly conversation and became preachy and obnoxious. We were even in her bedroom one night preaching at her in a rather forceful and pushy manner. She was starting to get very upset at us, and started to react. That, however, didn't stop us from being pushy. She eventually grew weary of it, sighed deeply, and just sat in silence while we kept shooting off our big mouths. The look on her face was one of resignation and weariness. We had gone too far. She wouldn't say anything to us.
Tom and Edward realized our error before I did. They eventually talked to me about it and we agreed not to be so forceful.
Bonnie, Edward, and I were all at Tom's house several nights later. Bonnie said, "What really bothered me is that Tom and Edward were 'giving it to me,' and then you---" referring to me, "---came in and started giving it to me too! I didn't even know you!"
"I'm sorry," I said. "I don't usually do that." Which wasn't true. I had been pushy and obnoxious to various people, but I was trying to find better ways to talk to people about Christ.
As we continued to talk, I began to get "preachy" again.
"You're doing it again!" she said.
I backed off, laughed in embarrassment, and then jokingly growled at her and moved toward her like I was an attacking bear.
Tom quickly jumped in and said, "He's joking! He's joking!"
Bonnie and I got along much better after that. I never acted poorly around her again.
Tom's sister came up from California around Christmas time. Tom's father, sister, and brother all lived in California, while Tom and his mother lived in Michigan. You may recall from the last chapter that Tom, Edward, and I went through a period where we strongly believed that Christians should only listen to "Christian" music. Tom knew that his sister listened to both (as we called it) "Christian" and "secular" music, so he decided to talk to her about it. But it ended up being more of an argument. Edward and I were at Tom's on the night that Tom spoke to her.
"It isn't glorifying to God," Tom said, referring to "secular" music. We referred to any song that wasn't about God or Christian principles as "secular."
"Either is our arguing," she said.
Early on in the school year, the three of us were often much too blunt in the way that we expressed our concerns to people. We weren't perfect, but we were trying to do what we believed to be right. (You may also recall from the last chapter that the three of us had already quit taking public stands against "secular" rock music at school. This incident with Tom's sister was probably the last time that we collectively stood against "secular" music. We would still express concerns about songs with immoral lyrics, but we stopped confronting people for listening to music that wasn't "Christian.")
Edward's dad was a Catholic and he didn't want Edward to go to the Baptist church with his mom. Edward was told, however, that when he turned 18 he could make up his own mind as to where he went to church. Edward told me that he wanted to go to his mom's Baptist church, but he still liked going to his dad's Catholic church. (Edward's mom, Tom, and I attended three different Baptist churches.)
"I think they are even 'saved!'" Edward said to me about the leadership of his dad's Catholic church. The reason that this statement was significant was because Edward's mom believed that the Catholic Church was not truly Christian. Even many of the Baptist people that I knew believed the same way as Edward's mom. Edward was beginning to reject the anti-Catholic criticisms that he was hearing. I, sorry to say, began to believe that the Catholic Church was not truly Christian. It took me a little longer than Edward to recognize that Jesus Christ was bigger than my narrow Protestant perspective.
When Edward finally turned 18, he started going to the Baptist church with his mom.
After I "took on" Henry in the bathroom (see Chapter Six), I went around telling everybody what I had done. Edward was there when it happened, so he always confirmed my story. I, however, began to add something to the story that wasn't true. After Henry kicked the door the second time, I said, "Big tough dude!" However, when I told the story, my version went, "I said, 'Big tough dude! Picking on a door!" Thus, I added four words to the truth. Edward apparently phased my lie into his memory, and whenever we told the story, that part was always in the story.
One night during the early part of our Senior year, Tom and Edward were over at my house. Edward and I started reenacting the story. I was playing myself, and Edward was playing Henry. Tom didn't seem to be as humored by the story as I was. Tom even seemed disappointed at how I had acted, as if he expected better behavior from me.
Edward and I started telling the story to someone again at a later date (I think it was in October), but I don't remember who it was that we were talking to. I told this person that I said, "Ooooh! Big tough dude!"
Edward added, " ... picking on a door!"
I said, "No, I didn't say that, Edward."
"Yes you did! I remember it!"
"You are so gullible, Edward! I lied! All I said was, 'Big tough dude!'"
Edward was furious with me.
"You lied to me, Bob!" he later said to me.
I didn't blame him for being upset. We never told the story to anyone again. Every time that I tried to bring the incident up in a conversation, Edward refused to talk about it. As time went on, I finally began to realize that the story was nothing to brag about. In fact, it was something to be ashamed of.
After I started carrying Don's Bible to school, I challenged Edward and Tom to do the same.
I challenged Edward by saying, "You ain't got the guts to carry your Bible!"
Edward wasn't the type of guy who could turn down a challenge. The next day Edward had a Bible in his hands. He carried it to school for the rest of the school year.
"You challenged me!" he said to me later on.
I can't remember if this happened before or after Edward was "saved," but I do know that it was early in the school year. Tom started carrying a Bible to school shortly thereafter. Edward and Tom both carried their Bibles for the rest of the school year, although Tom did say to me that he was not carrying his just because I challenged him. In fact, Tom said to me, "The reason that I didn't carry my Bible at first was because you did challenge me."
During the course of my Senior year, I managed to come up with some very weird ideas. One such notion that I got was a belief that I could flip a coin to find truth. This started in reaction to all of the people who were telling me that rock and roll music was of the devil. One day, I took a coin and said, "God, if rock music, even with Christian lyrics, is wrong, then cause the coin to come up tails."
I flipped the coin several times and every flip came up heads. I then began flipping a coin to find out the answers for anything.
An example of this occurred one night when Edward and I were at Tom's house. We started talking about the doctrine of "election." Many Christians believed that God selectively chose (or "elected") who would go to hell and who would go to heaven. Those that believed this said that it only appeared that people had a free choice in the matter, but that there was no actual free choice. Other Christians believed that people could choose for themselves whether or not to receive Christ; and that "election" was nothing more than the idea that God chose, or "elected," to "save" those who would chose to receive Christ. My church held to the latter position. Not every Christian was at either of these extremes, however. There were many who took a position that was somewhere in between the two. These Christians believed that there was both "election by God" and "free will on the part of people," but that how the two ideas balanced was beyond the human ability to understand. I hated the doctrine of election because, to me, it implied that God loved some people more than others. Tom, however, was quite open to consider any of the above mentioned positions. We discussed it for awhile. We referred to the doctrine of election as "Calvinism."
I eventually went to the bathroom and flipped my coin saying, "God, if 'Calvinism' is false then cause the coin to come up heads."
The flip came up heads. I suddenly rushed out of the bathroom and said with a shaky voice, "Tom! I know 'Calvinism' is wrong!" I told him that I had flipped a coin to find the truth. Tom tried flipping the coin several times, but it came up heads only half of the time.
"I wonder why it's not working for me," he said.
In time, after the coin flipping failed me several times, I grew out of the practice of flipping a coin to find truth.
Tom and Edward went to a Petra concert early in our Senior year. Shortly thereafter, Edward's mom found out that Petra was a Christian rock band. She wasn't happy about that and told Edward that she didn't want him going to "any more of those rock concerts."
Tom and I went to a particular concert one night, but Edward's mom wouldn't let Edward go. Edward told his dad that Tom and I had gone to the concert.
"Oh!" his dad said. "How come you didn't go?"
"Mom wouldn't let me," Edward said.
During the early 1980's, there were many people in the church (much more than there are today) who frequently complained that rock music was "worldly" and sinful, even if the artists were Christians. (Truth be told, however, the Christians who made such arguments were only trying to find an easy way to justify their own personal discomforts over something that they neither understood nor liked.)
I went to a total of five Christian concerts during the time that I was a Senior in high school. Tom was with me for every one, and Edward went to one or two of these concerts. The first concert that Tom and I went to was the Imperials at Calvin College on October 9, 1982. I said to Tom after the concert was over, "I loved it!" It was a very worshipful experience for me, and I thought that the music was awesome. This concert, however, created some controversy between Don and I.
Don was again trying to convince me that rock and roll music was sinful and that I shouldn't be listening to it even if it had Christian lyrics. I said to Don, "When I went to the Imperials concert, it was an awesome worship experience! During the last half hour, they had that whole audience worshipping God! People were lifting their hands in praise to God and singing. Even I was praising God! If what they were doing was so wrong, then how could they do that?"
Don shook his head and said, "I don't know."
Don then talked to Dan and others at our Baptist church's youth group, and they told Don how to challenge my argument. Don eventually continued discussing the issue with me one night at church using the arguments that Dan and the others had given him. He said, "Have you ever read the book of Jonah? Jonah was a 'back-slider!' He ran from God, but God still used him to bring revival!"
Don's point was that just because God used the Imperials, it didn't mean that what the Imperials did was right. Don was saying that God could use anyone, even those who were "back-sliden" away from God. I didn't know how to respond to Don's argument, but I didn't accept his argument.
The second concert that Tom and I went to was Amy Grant and Gary Chapman on November 6, 1982. Opening up for Amy was an unknown artist named Michael W. Smith. The announcer said that Michael W. Smith would be coming out with an album some time during the next year. I was not impressed with Michael. Even though Amy Grant had a band, Michael sang to recorded music. I complained that I couldn't understand what he was singing because his vocals were drowned out by bad mixing. I also thought that the background music he sang to was sloppy.
I said about Michael W. Smith, "This guy will never make it!" (Little did I realize that he would become one of the biggest Christian artists of all time!) However, when his first album finally came out some time later, I was actually quite impressed with it.
There were a couple more concerts over the next few months, but these did not stand out in any way for me.
My final concert of the school year was Petra on April 15, 1983 at the Civic Center in Holland. Tom and I went without Edward to this one. The city of Holland is approximately 15 miles to the south-west of Grand Rapids. Tom drove us there is his little red Road Runner.
It had been snowing off and on throughout the day in Grand Rapids, but the snow slightly increased in intensity as we got closer to Holland. A cold wave had come out of Canada on this April day resulting in a winter-like spring day. The snowfall was light and was not accumulating, but it did make for a beautiful sight.
Tom and I didn't know our way around Holland very well, and we didn't know where the Holland Civic Center was. Tom, however, had relatives in Zeeland (which was right next to Holland), including a cousin who agreed to show Tom how to find the Civic Center.
"Just follow me!" his cousin said when Tom stopped at his home.
Tom's cousin suddenly drove off with a fast acceleration. Tom raced after him. Tom's cousin started driving rather daringly, traveling at high speeds through the downtown area of Holland, cutting right in front of people, passing cars at high speeds, and swerving in and out of traffic as if it was an obstacle course. Tom had no trouble keeping up.
"What is he doing?" I said, feeling a little bit of fear.
"He's just testing me," Tom said. "He wants to see if I can keep up with him."
"He's going to loose us!" I said. "What if we get lost? Then we won't be able to find the Civic Center!"
"Don't worry. I know what I'm doing."
Petra rocked! It was a very loud concert. This ended up being my favorite concert of the year.
Petra was from farther south where the weather was warmer, and they were not used to seeing snow in April. The lead singer, Greg X. Volz, suddenly blurted out between a couple of songs, "I just have one question to ask you all. Does it always snow here in the middle of April?"
The whole auditorium roared with applause, cheers, and shouts of "Yeah!"
"Just checking," Greg said, and then Petra went into their next song.
During the drive back home, the snow began coming down rather heavily, and it accumulated on the ground. I started getting excited and said, "Tom! It's snowing! I love it! Look at this! It's coming down pretty hard! I love it!"
Tom, however, wasn't as excited about it as I was. He just kept his eye on the road and jokingly told me that I was crazy.
Edward said to me in class the next day, "Tom told me that you were rejoicing over our snowstorm last night."
"I loved it!" I said.
Edward also jokingly told me that I was crazy.
I always was somewhat of a "weather nut." I loved snow, storms, cold weather, rain, clouds, wind, and every other imaginable form of weather. Once I even climbed up a ladder so that I could try to see a tornado that was sighted a mile from my neighborhood. I didn't see it, however, as I could only see the dark storm clouds that were associated with it. Up until 11th grade, my career goal was to be a meteorologist. However, I had drifted from this goal by the time that I was a Senior in high school. Even though I was no longer striving to be a meteorologist, my love for weather had not changed. There was something about it that was so fascinating to me that even the smallest thunderstorm or snowstorm could send me into an emotional state of extreme excitement. (In the early 1990's, I rekindled my desire to be a meteorologist. I started attending Central Michigan University in 1994 to get a Meteorology degree. This would be my second college degree.)
Tom, Edward, and I would frequently go to Taco Bell during the school lunch period. It was only a few minutes walk from the school, and we could walk there and have plenty of time to eat. Sometimes Tom would drive to McDonald's for lunch, and Edward and I would ride along. On one particular trip to McDonald's, Edward saw some girls from school and decided to sit with them. He spent a lot of time talking with them, but I didn't say much because my shyness kicked in.
I said to Edward after the girls left, "We shouldn't have sat here."
"Why?" Edward said.
"Because they're not Christians. We are not supposed to be of the world," I said.
"Well, I don't agree with you," Edward said.
Edward, of course, was right to disagree with me. I was not being honest with either Edward or myself when I told Edward that we shouldn't have sat with non-Christians. Certainly, I didn't really believe that. The real reason that I said what I said was because I was feeling shy and uncomfortable. I was trying to find a way to avoid my discomfort so that I wouldn't have to deal with it. I didn't feel comfortable in this situation, so I tried to get out of it by saying, "Well, I'm supposed to be separate from the world, so I shouldn't be spending time with those who are not Christians."
I was seriously considering going to Grand Rapids Baptist College. I decided to visit the college to see if it was where I wanted to go. I asked Tom to go with me.
"I don't need to go," he said. "I already know what school I'm going to go to."
"Will you still go with me?" I asked. "I don't want to go alone."
Tom agreed to go with me. I loved what I saw, and decided that this was the college for me. It would take me seven years, however, to get my degree from that college, but in May of 1990 I would graduate from Grand Rapids Baptist College (now called Cornerstone University) with a degree in Communications.
Tom always seemed to be the type of person who was willing to go the extra mile for anyone. He was attending a Baptist church different from the one I was attending. There was a guy at that church named Roy. Roy had gotten into quite a bit of trouble in his past. Tom told me that many of the youth at his Baptist Church rejected Roy because of his background. Tom, however, wanted to show Roy the unconditional love of God. Tom and Roy became good friends. Edward and I would often go with Tom to visit Roy. However, many of the youth at Tom's church continued to reject Roy, and Roy grew weary of that rejection. He eventually stopped attending the church, and started hanging around with his old friends. Tom was afraid that Roy was heading for trouble again. Tom tried to reach out to him, but Roy continued to drift away and fall back into his old ways. Tom was truly saddened to see his friend falling away, and I was very impressed with the genuine concern that he had. It was a powerful example to me of God's love working through Tom. I have no idea how Roy's life went after that. Tom hasn't heard from him since.
When the school year ended in June, Tom and Edward went to California for the summer. They stayed with Tom's dad who lived out there. All three of us went to each other's graduation open houses on the week-end following graduation. We then spent the night at Tom's house. Edward and I started acting in an extremely silly manner, and we kept saying really stupid jokes while we cracked-up laughing the entire time. We had the giggles for an unbelievably long amount of time. I had never laughed as much at one time as I did with Edward that night. Maybe it was because I knew that my two best friends were going away for the summer and I wanted to enjoy their friendship as much as I could on our last night together for awhile. They were gone the next day, and I was hit with a strong feeling of sadness that lasted for several days.
Edward, Tom, and I were never again as close as we were during our Senior year. Tom and I became close again from 1984 through 1985, and Edward and Tom continued to have a good friendship for some time after high school. But we never again had the three-way magic that made our friendship work so well.
I still talk to both of them on occasion, but these talks are few and far between. We all pretty much live in very different worlds.
We may not have the level of friendship that we once had, but both Edward and Tom will always have a special place in my memory and heart. They are truly two of the best friends that I ever had. Tom and Edward were gifts from God himself!