The day before Joseph M. Scriven's wedding, his fiancé drowned.
Grieving, he sailed from his home in Ireland to Canada where he found work as a teacher. He fell in love again and became engaged, but this time his fiancé became ill and died before they could wed.
Around that same time, Joseph received word from Ireland that his mother was ill. Unable to travel to see her, he wrote a letter of comfort and enclosed one of his poems entitled "What a Friend We Have in Jesus."
Chances are you have heard its lyrics, and although written in the 1800s, the words are equally true today, for they remind us that Jesus is the friend that never abandons us.
Last week I wrote about my time with my girlfriends in Mexico and shared with you how invigorating that annual trip is for all of us. I defined our friendship by using the cliché "We have each other's back."
My husband Dave -- on more than one occasion -- has told his friends that he fears for the life of anyone who messes with us. No matter what would happen, we would never forsake one another. This trip proved him wrong.
First, a little background. There are six in this group, including me. Every year before these girls leave for Mexico, their relatives warn them of the dangers there.
My friends assure their loved ones that the only targets in Mazatlan are the drug cartels and that we senior citizens would not be on anyone's list of desirable abductees.
Diana is our "leader." She is the one who organizes us, hides our domino betting money in her shirt and blows her whistle when it's time for our choreographed version of "Stop In The Name Of Love," which has, on numerous occasions, caused perfect strangers to clap and even attempt to join in. (Our children would be mortified.)
Several years ago, Diana was treated for a medical condition that has, over time, caused her to periodically require a wheelchair. It is difficult for her to rise from a seated position and her steps are slow and deliberate.
On the third night there, we six were on the veranda playing dominoes, listening to the waves pound the shore, when our banter was interrupted by a distant popping noise. In unison the girls asked what it was.
To be funny, I nonchalantly answered, "Probably a gunshot." No sooner were the words out of my mouth than a whole slew of similar explosive sounds pierced the air. The girls immediately shot into action, performing a panic "duck and cover" drill that would have made the Navy Seals proud.
Diana and I never moved, but the other four flipped out of their chairs and began half-crawling to scurry into our condominium. They bear-crawled only a few steps before noticing all the brilliant sparklers in the sky and realized it was just a fireworks show -- a common wedding celebration ritual in Mexico.
Not one of them had thought of helping Diana. By the time the four girls dusted themselves off and returned to their chairs, we were all laughing hysterically.
So much for "We've got each others' backs," Diana reminded them. Not even close. It was every woman for herself.
In reality, it was a touching reminder of how even the best earthly friendships can be less than perfect. We will fail each other, for we all have a propensity towards selfishness -- or, in this case, self preservation.
That's why we must covet our friendship with Jesus, the one who offered His very life for us, the one who intercedes for us.
Joseph Scriven's poem/song is an expression of Jesus' unselfish nature: He bears our grief, our temptations, our weaknesses, our heaviness.
He is the one who never leaves nor forsakes us, for He truly does "have our backs." He does it all ... as long as we allow Him to.