I have become a reader, a departure from my youthful desire to avoid it and the tests that followed at all cost, which I could not. Three books, sometimes more, rest bedside, dormant until my hands and eyes fall on them. Short chapters: a word here and there move on to sentences and then paragraphs move on to chapter and verse. This is the process of language revealing its reflection to me. Each waits and attempts to reach and engage me, to wrest from me some erect attention deserving of its meanings and mind, always blowing and wiping dust from some truth I knew and ignored and needed to hear again.

Books enter our presence because we allow them. Friends they are, guardrails and guideposts and sentinels to an “other” truth – friendship knows no initiation rite, only realization.

The whole of a Christian’s life, the test upon which we succeed or fail, begins when another comes into our presence. When that other is most like us, possesses some trait we wish belonged to us, remains present in our darkest hour and failing, even betrayal, when others rise to the name friend, the test is easy.

The harder test and task comes when someone enters who is not known to us or else, not like us. Though politeness and social norms guide us, our defenses switch on beneath a layered myopia. An all too familiar reticence and unwillingness to let go becomes a fog settling and hovering around us into which we withdraw and encamp within its limited field of vision. The scene is familiar – a polite greeting, a nod or scant hello, knowing the passing will require nothing we have or wish to give or worse, to stare past someone and remain unaware, to treat them as cold and invisible.

And then, as if to find comfort in our field of vision, we seek affirmation in numbers, those others in whom we retreat and find refuge from those “seeming” frontiers infringing on our normality. Occurring in our thinking, either loudly or silently, we say, “Let’s keep close to those like us.”

But each encountered life alters us if not in a direct way, certainly in some subtle, indirect, silent and softening utterance, fermenting within us a new measure. Are not then grace and friendship both alike? Is not a stranger’s path crossed strange no more when it permeates us? What inheritance did the priest and the Levite, and the Samaritan obtain?

And having been altered by those many and varied encounters, each affirms and weighs us by degrees. Years and distance may destroy lesser bonds but remaining are affirmations and measures and realizations. Awake and uncovered, our condition is no longer at a place resembling its beginning.

Thus changed, does not our presence also deposit some alteration in those we greet? and isn’t this a solemn Christian call — to be transformed and also transforming?

“As you therefore have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him” (Colossians 2:6; NKJV).

“Those who have ears to hear, let them hear” (Matthew 11:15).

Deck Cheatham has been a golf professional for more than 40 years. He lives with his family in Dalton. Contact him at pgadeacon@gmail.com.