My best friend Jonathan is smart. When we were growing up he would help me with my homework even though he was 3 years behind me in school. And when I say ‘help’ I mean ‘practically do it.’ And then we would go outside and I would own him in basketball. He was short and I was tall for my age. And yes, it made me feel better.
He is now a doctor. I can actually remember him telling me he wanted to be a doctor when we were just kids. He was probably 5 or 6 at the time. Whenever I think about him telling me this, I picture his Fisher Price doctor’s kit sitting in the floor of his room. Sometimes I would find him reading encyclopedias in that same spot. I’d be watching Scooby Doo and then realize he was not around. So I’d go looking for him and there he was in his room reading the letter Q.
“Do you know what a quid is?”
“Umm, I don’t think you should say that word so loud while your mom is here in the house.”
I don’t think he ever studied. He went to what is probably the most academically rigorous High School in the area and I do not have one memory of him ever saying, “I need to study.” So, we have this in common, neither one of us studied in High School.
I can remember hanging out on the weekend and we would be driving around Birmingham aimlessly and there are these vivid memories of Jonathan getting really quiet and then I would realize he was reading something. Anything.
“Hey man, you’re reading and we are out cruising.”
And then he would give me this sheepish look and then shrug his shoulders and go back to reading the car’s manual or a Sports Illustrated from 90 weeks ago. It was weird. I mean, girls existed and that was one of the reasons we were out and about. But it’s paid off because now he is a doctor and makes a lot of money and gives some to me because I am a poor pastor.
But walking around with an Encyclopedia has it’s advantages. Because sometimes you wonder about things no one else would know about like the amount of water in a watermelon. Jonathan has a brain like a sponge, so he would be able to answer questions we did not even know how to ask. So if we saw the symbol for pi, he could tell us what that was, its history and the square root of it. And the whole time he was explaining this, we were thinking, “mmmm, pie.”
Every now and again, I would assert something and he would say, “Actually…” and then correct me. I am sure there is someone out there with the spiritual acumen that makes it possible for them to like being wrong. Those people are dead to me. It was difficult to be corrected by one who had yet to hit puberty. I resolved from then to stay away from all discussions involving quantum mechanics. This was around the time I resolved to no longer play Monopoly with him. Or Risk. Or anything where my height and strength did not give a distinct advantage.
However, I did know more about Duran Duran than he did. Rock on Doogie Howser. Rock on.
But see, here’s the thing – my friendship with Jonathan is not because of his smarts or in spite of it. But it is one of the reasons I love him. It’s what makes him who he is. Some friendships may exist because of very dramatic events people have experienced together. But my guess is that most friendships are the result of dozens of little pieces of relational minutia. All mundane under the microscope. But in the aggregate they form an extraordinary picture of friendship. That’s why, 31 years later we are still friends.
You should also know, his knowledge of the Bible was crazy. My favorite verse was probably John 3:16, the only one I knew more than a day after Vacation Bible School was over and the tokens for Showbiz had been used that I earned memorizing a verse each day. His favorite was probably always something from Habakkuk or Lamentations.
“Jonathan, that’s not even a book in the Bible.”
“Yes it is, it’s in the Old Testament. Look, here it is.”
“Let’s go play basketball.”