This is the part of my blog where I talk about people who are not only great friends but people of the highest caliber. I write about them because they deserve to be honored and because it reminds me of the type of person I aspire to be.
I have known Tony for almost 4 years. His enduring friendship, along with the friendship of several others, are the redemption of what was otherwise a very painful situation. I always think of it as Romans 8:28 happening in real life – working out all things. I don’t believe God wills awful things, but I do believe he redeems them. It’s not possible to have enough gratitude for something like that.
Tony and I got to know each other through the accelerated method: turmoil. It’s the best way to get to know someone if you really want to know them. Don’t get me wrong, there were wonderful experiences involved, too. We’ve had a lot of fun. But struggle is where you learn who someone is whether you want to know or not. It’s also where a friendship is either forged into permanency or not.
During difficult times, Tony is the best conversation partner because he’s the best listener I’ve ever known. People often describe other people as great listeners because they are silent long enough for you to speak your mind. But Tony does more than give you space to talk. He eliminates any preconceived notion of who you are or what you’re going to say. THEN he listens, actively seeking to understand what you’re thinking so he can respond accordingly. It’s simple but extraordinary. Listening well sets the stage for responding well. Tony is just as thoughtful with his responses as he is while listening. He knows that when you’re processing difficult things a good response is not one that evaluates the accuracy of your statements or answers all of your questions. I’m actually not entirely certain how he does it, but I always walk away from conversations with Tony feeling confident and at ease. He has helped me set aside fear and intimidation by valuing who I am. I owe a lot of growth and change to Tony’s refined conversation skills. It’s pretty much my favorite thing about him.
People have said that I can be too impressionable. They’re right. But hopefully they’re less right these days because I’ve been doing my best to follow Tony’s example. Tony can be who he is without being around people who are exactly like him. He peacefully and gracefully maintains his identity and beliefs even when those he cares about may disagree all while maintaining strong, healthy relationships. Not that he isn’t open to other ideas or deep conversation (see paragraph above). But he’s found a balance between transparency/authenticity and keeping things close. I’m still learning that.
Something I know for certain is that Tony’s going to be there. He’s the guy that is steadfast even when life seems to derail. Even when life is terribly confusing and painful–he acknowledges that it’s awful, he feels the pain of it, but he’s still ok.
Tony has a great laugh. He can talk to anyone about anything. He’s just got that kind of personality. He’s intelligent and well studied without being intimidating. He’s wise, humble, and strong. While I don’t get to have very many intellectual and theological conversations with him anymore, he’ll always have my utmost admiration and respect.
Here’s to you, Tony. Thank you for all the ways you’ve made me better. You’re top notch.