I had a great surprise this past weekend, although my mom had already sent me an email saying it was going to happen. Some moms like to keep secrets, some mom’s like to share them. Mine never could keep a secret — at least not from her kids. She had told me that an old friend was trying to get in touch with me and she had given him my phone number. Sure enough, last Friday, as I sat on my couch still feeling miserable, the phone rang and a voice from my past said “hi.”
Rick wasn’t just someone that I knew. He and I and my roommate George were the Three Musketeers. We could get into more trouble in one afternoon than most people can find in a lifetime. We called each other’s parents “mom” and “dad.” We played together. We studied together. We even spent time together on leave.
But the life of a gypsy, first in the Marine Corps and now in The Salvation Army, is not one where you put down deep roots. You spend your time in each place, making yourself part of the community, and living as if you will be there for the rest of your life, but you know that one day you will receive that phone call that says, “You’re next assignment is … .” Then you pack your bags, say goodbye, and start your life over.
We used to say in the Marine Corps that you had a complete turnover of your household every three moves. Some of your stuff got damaged and replaced, some of it wore out or became outdated, and some of it just got misplaced, repacked and forgotten. Addresses and contact information always seemed to be one of those things that got misplaced. You knew that you put it where it was safe, but you can’t remember where that was. And your house isn’t set up exactly the same in your new place, so even if you could remember, that spot may not even exist anymore. If you missed two Christmas seasons in a row, the post office forwarding was probably too old to catch up with you anyway. Especially when they moved as often as you did.
I hadn’t talked to Rick in over 20 years and it was 10 years longer than that since we had actually seen each other. My boys were still small the last time we were together, and he had just gotten married and didn’t even have kids yet. Now his are both out on their own just like mine. Time can change a lot of things, but the memories still remain. They always will, because they will always be treasured. When I talked to my sons this past weekend, I told them that Rick had called. They didn’t have to ask “Rick who?” They knew.
God knew that we lose track of too many things. While his people were still wandering around the desert, he gave them this instruction: “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates … And if we are careful to obey all this law before the Lord our God, as he has commanded us, that will be our righteousness.” God is still like those old friends. If you don’t know where he is, guess who moved.