Male friends were always problematic for me. As I’ve grown up, I’ve had a few best friends. It feels like all of those friendships have ended badly. I’ll share about 1 of them today from my past. In High School, I became best friends with Phil Fasano. He was my mentor and everything I wished I could be. Phil was a year older, good looking, more athletic, and from a large close knit family. His older brother was physically imposing and no one messed with him or Phil ( I dealt with bullying daily in school).
His sister Linda was pretty and I had a crush on her for years, so I enjoyed being at their house sleeping over. He basically helped me through pubescence. Our favorite times were going to Bertrand’s Island, a large amusement park on the other side of the lake. They had the largest wooden roller coaster in NJ and most of the other standard rides and games. They had a wheel game that gave candy as prizes that I liked a lot. I also loved a unique game where you threw baseballs at life-size moving mannequins with hats on, trying to hit it just right to knock off the hat. We made friends with many of the workers at Bertrand’s Island, so they let us play for free many times. To us it was better than hanging out at the mall. We were fortunate that we had a much older acquaintance that drove a van. John had no friends other than us, and he was happy to drive us to the park. Unlike now, thankfully there was no entrance fee to get in or to park. John would go to the arcade and play pinball. Phil used his time there to meet teen girls visiting from all over the tri-county area.
I was terrified of meeting girls and mostly just watched John play pinball and Phil do his thing. Phil was determined though to help me and made an effort to find pairs of girls. Of course the prettier one would always end up with Phil, but beggars can’t be choosers, especially when I had the confidence of a cucumber. Phil’s go-to move was to invite the girls on the roller coaster and see how that went. This roller coaster was dangerous and scary. There was a solid bar that went across the seat that you had to slide under, but it didn’t close on your lap. There was a flimsy chain that sometimes was there. One time the wooden seat broke off from the base I was riding on. That was exciting… This was the second coaster they had, as the first one burnt down a few years earlier while people were riding it. There were people who would fall off each year despite the sign that said “no standing”. I don’t remember any lawsuits, but this was the late 70s early 80s.
Anyway, if the girls were still interested after the coaster ride, we’d go to another one-of-a-kind attraction called “The Cube”. This was a pitch black metal box, about 20′ x 20′, with very loud music and a strobe light. For .25 you could go in for 15 minutes and dance or just sit on the floor. Phil spent his money trying to kiss the girls he’d just met. It was inside The Cube, after much angry urging from Phil, that I kissed a girl for the first time and several more before the Summer was over and the park closed.
Things got pretty upside down soon after… That Winter Phil started dating a young lady from school named Amanda (Mandy for short). After a few weeks, Mandy invited her pretty cousin Heather on a double date with me, her, and Phil. We all went ice skating on the frozen lake and after a couple of hours, we were all resting on logs at the State Park. Phil and Heather decided to have a skating race to the other side of the cove. Mandy and I stayed behind and were talking, when she stunned me with a confession that she liked someone more than Phil, and that someone was me. This was the first time that ever happened and I certainly wasn’t going to betray my friendship. Later that day I had a serious talk with Phil about what Mandy shared earlier in the day. Phil was surprisingly very cool about it and even encouraged me to pursue it.
For the next 6 months Mandy and I were boyfriend and girlfriend. After school I’d go to her house, which was empty until her mother got home much later. I remember playing the Fleetwood Mac Rumours album over and over. She was way more experienced than I was and it looked like intimacy was a next step if it was up to her. If you thought kissing was terrifying for me, I was even more terrified of all this and I felt a lot of pressure. Like many teens, I was torn as I didn’t want to risk my relationship, but I didn’t want to do something prematurely that I’d regret later. All this time Phil and I remained best friends and confided in him how I was feeling. I found out shortly thereafter though that Mandy and Phil started seeing each other again and I suspect she got tired waiting on me. I tried to talk to Phil, but for some reason he was angry that I discovered the truth. There was plenty of tension between us after that. Most in the school kept urging us to fight and it looked like it would come to that. I didn’t really mind losing Mandy (it was almost a relief), but I really missed my friendship with Phil, and I certainly didn’t want to fight him. A few months passed and the boys PE class went to a wrestling semester. All the planets somehow aligned with Phil and I winning all our matches and the finals pitting us against each other. We had avoided each other until then. It felt like the whole school was aware of it and everyone was talking about the “confrontation”. I wasn’t… and didn’t want to be further embarrassed. It was unavoidable though and our match happened with me winning 2-1 unexpectedly. We nodded and shook hands (to everyone’s disappointment) and we would go our separate ways after that. I’ll share about my 2nd best friend next week…
Prov 27:17 says Iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another… Tony illustrated our lives being like sharpened knives. A recent Cutco sales pitch to he and his wife of these knives, promised products that never got dull. I’ve had this demonstration also. They cut metal. They slice leather like its a tomato. They were honed with the best of iron to make them razor sharp. They are pretty good, and Tony wanted us to pattern our lives like these knives and keeping one another sharp. To have a true friend, mentor, and discipleship partner is not only important, it’s biblical. Those that will not abandon someone in need, showing love in all cases. Tony shared about the failures of our lives make us uniquely equipped to help others. Just because we have flaws, doesn’t mean our iron won’t sharpen. Tony continued that someday God will put someone in our lives that need to hear our individual story. Will you be faithful with that message and deliver what God has made your purpose to be? Invite people into your life and be open. We shun that sometimes because of pride. We start with defining and identifying what we need, then ask for help. Tony identified that we need to… Be reasonable. Be practical. Listen and take notes. Apply what we learn.
Obviously my non-Christian friendships growing up were never like this. By having true, deep, spiritual friendships in our lives, we can be iron sharpening iron and become like Cutco knives and never become dull. Are we willing to become vulnerable enough to do this? Consider it and have a great week everyone !