You’re going to make a lot of mistakes throughout your life. Some will simply embarrass you. Others will get you into serious trouble. And there will come a day when a mistake gets you hurt.
You’ll be able to bounce back from most of your mistakes. If you find the book you’re reading to be horribly written, you can put it down. If you choose the wrong college, you can switch. If you take a job because it pays well, only to discover the company’s business practices are unethical, you can quit.
Lewis, there’s one mistake you can’t afford to make: choosing the wrong friends. And if you need an example of what true friends should be like, look at Merry and Pippin.
As a parent I know I’m not supposed to say this, but I’m not too concerned about the kids you play with when you’re in elementary school or junior high. I’m sure I’ll begin to care a little more when you’re in high school. What I’m talking about are the select three or four friends you’ll make that will move heaven and earth to ensure you don’t walk through the darkest times of your life alone.
For me, your Uncle Dago, Uncle Josh and Uncle Matt have been those friends. Yes, there are others who have helped me through hard times. But your Uncles have sometimes made their own lives harder in order to ease my pain. Your Uncles, wether they know it or not, are the real life equivalents of Merry and Pippin.
Like Merry and Pippin, both in word and deed, your Uncles have never let me face a new adventure alone.
‘You do not understand!’ said Pippin. ‘You must go – and therefore we must, too. Merry and I are coming with you. Sam is an excellent fellow…but you will need more than one companion in your dangerous adventure.’ (Lord of the Rings, page 102)
As the Merry and Pippin to my Frodo, your Uncles have refused to let me go it alone, no matter how stupid and spiteful I may have been.
‘But it does not seem that I can trust anyone,’ said Frodo.
‘It all depends on what you want,’ put in Merry. ‘You can trust us to stick to you through thick and thin – to the bitter end. And you can trust us to keep any secret of yours – closer than you keep it yourself. But you cannot trust us to let you face trouble alone and go off without a word. We are your friends, Frodo…We are horribly afraid – but we are coming with you, or following you like hounds.’ (LOTR, page 103)
Lewis, I could tell you stories for days about how your Uncles have stood by me even when I thought they were foolish to do so.
‘It’s most unfair,’ said Pippin. ‘Instead of throwing [Sam] out, and clapping him in chains, Elrond goes and rewards him for his cheek!’
‘Rewards!’ said Frodo. ‘I can’t imagine a more severe punishment. You are not thinking what you are saying: condemned to go on this hopeless journey, a reward? Yesterday I dreamed that my task was done, and I could rest here, a long while, perhaps for good.’
‘I don’t wonder,’ said Merry, ‘and I wish you could. But we are envying Sam, not you. If you have to go, then it will be a punishment for any of us to be left behind, even in Rivendell. We have come a long way with you and been through some stiff times. We want to go on.’
‘That’s what I meant,’ said Pippin. ‘We hobbits ought to stick together, and we will. I shall go, unless they chain me up.’ (LOTR, page 265)
Lewis, I love you more than you will ever know. But there will come a time when you will leave home to begin your own adventure, an adventure in which I will play only a small role. When you set out on that adventure please, I beg you, choose your traveling companions wisely. They just might save your life.
I’m certain your Uncles saved mine.
I love you, Lewis.
‘I think, Elrond, that in this matter it would be well to trust rather to their friendship than to great wisdom.’ – Gandalf (LOTR, page 269)
What’s your standard for what it means to be a good friend? Do you have your own Merry and Pippin? Just as importantly, are you someone else’s?
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