We called our group the “Elite.”
The reason for the name is lost in my memory. The name afforded each member no special circumstance except the exercise of some adolescent self-approval. We performed no civic or charitable or secret function. We were just good friends, outside the main, gathering to enjoy Friday nights and discuss disparate happenings around town from places like Wells Drive, Tolly Ganly Circle, Livingston Terrace and Pruitt Drive.
Those days fulfilled a need, if not a purpose obscured at the time by incubating minds. Besides Friday nights, there were summer trips to the lake house, first road trips to Charleston, cotillion dances and a once-in-while day at Rivers Turn. Our bond seemed strong.
But bonds not formed by blood or love or pain or covenant weaken through absence. Captured by our westward desires, we matriculated, married, moved and pursued the future. The bond dissolved into memory though I thought it never would.
“I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without me you can do nothing. If anyone does not abide in me, he is cast out as a branch and is withered; and they gather them and throw them into the fire, and they are burned” (John 15: 5,6).
There is a westward desire within us all. We move not simply away but also toward our own urging, toward some unknown vast vulnerability of our own making. Masking our doubt is a self-approved image morphing into a false, cock-fired assurance. In fear, we learn quickly to defend ourselves first and blame others just the same, and soon believe what we say. After all, who would resign from their own confidence?
All are lost. But not all is lost. Our early years do not leave, but follow, even in silent dormancy, digging deep like a winter root. And those long-remembered dissolutions serve us. We learned to bond then or perhaps we were being tutored by our commonality. Either way, we won our west and time permitted us to put aside our labors, to remember that simpler beginning.
Those late nights and long discussions on Wells Drive prepared me. I have lived the fruit from our gatherings. This is how it is with Christ. No matter how westward I travel, he is in me — and in my need and my failings, I am in him. I achieved nothing without him, though I often believed I did.
Those Friday night discussions are coming back to me, the laughter and awkwardness, the felicity and the good feeling. I resign to those bonds as I do to Christ each day. I pray he will do something with me, use me for more than I am.
For in my unknown, I am nothing.
In Christ, I am not lost.
I wish not to wither.
“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 firstname.lastname@example.org.