Yesterday was my birthday. One of Mary Beth’s gifts to me was a new, birch, floor-to-ceiling bookcase (92″ x 42″ x 12″). It is gorgeous. As I loaded the shelves with the books I have downstairs, a rather pithy thought occurred to me. You can’t buy friends, but friends can buy you friends. Let me explain.
When I became a Christian, a rather drastic change took place. Aside from the rather obvious changes that might take place when one moves from unbelief to belief, something rather unexpected happened. I started to read. I wanted to know. For perhaps the first time in my life, to my recollection, I was no longer satisfied playing baseball, skateboarding, or any other activity. My outgoing, social, and active nature receded, giving way to a life consumed by books, contemplation, and conversation with those who have gone before me.
Throughout this metamorphosis (really, how long did you think I would go without using that cliche?) friends and family have come alongside me, and have contributed to my intellectual development. Over the past decade, they have put up with my relentless requests for nothing other than books for Christmas and Birthday presents. They have bought me friends. They have purchased an endless supply of conversation partners from all eras of Church History.
I distinctly remember the day I asked Dustin Crowe, my first roommate at Moody Bible Institute, and Mike Lynch for book suggests. They introduced me to Luther’s Bondage of the Will (I read it in a sitting while pulling an all nighter before the men’s breakfast Piper came to speak at), John Owen’s Mortification of Sin, and Augustine’s Confessions. It didn’t take that much longer for me to develop a deep love of Historical Theology. In response, my parents purchased the Patristics Series, Luther’s Sermons, and Calvin’s Commentaries.
From my reading of Owen’s Mortification of Sin came an appreciation for the warm piety, precision, and insight into the soul and human nature so characteristic of the Puritans. Chuck Neely, a man responsible for building 1/4 of my library and good friend, gifted me the works of John Owen and Jonathan Edwards. The pastoral staff at Cary Alliance, along with Chuck, gave me Charles Simeon’s Expository Outlines on the Whole Bible. This set was lovingly constructed, volume by volume, by Chuck Neely.
My first date with Mary Beth centered around a discussion of Edward’s A Dissertation Concerning the End for Which God Created the World. The very fact that she attempted to read it, engage with it, and discuss it with me on a first date made me know she was a keeper, though I didn’t tell her that until three years later.
Edwards also became a regular topic of conversation in the Massengill household. I can’t tell you how many conversations I had with mom Massengill about Edward’s theology and how it shaped American literature in the works of Harriet Beecher Stowe and others.
The works of Spurgeon, G. K. Morgan, Warfield, Wesley, Bavnick, Mueller, and countless other authors both in this bookcase and in others around the house have been gifted to me by my parents, Mary Beth’s parents, Mary Beth, my brothers, my sisters, Chuck Neely, Pastor Gregory, Scott Eichleberger, Mike Lynch, and too many others to name. I cannot thank you enough. I can never repay you. Know that every time I consult a book for research, I remember the person that gave it to me. I thank you for your friendship throughout the years, and I thank you for buying friends for me that are available for a conversation no matter the time, day or night. Know that I remember your gifts, and also know that every time I drink deeply from their wisdom, I seek to faithfully use the gifts God has given me for the furtherance of his kingdom.