I’m just starting to make the rounds of retirement parties for my friends. I guess it’s another season of life. When you’re young, you attend your friends’ birthday parties, then their graduations, weddings, baby showers, anniversaries, retirement parties and finally their funerals. I must be moving into the next-to-last season of life, because I just got invited to a retirement party.

Each week after I write my article, I send it to what I call “The Big White Box” in Oklahoma City known as the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma. They are the ones who got me started writing this column almost 20 years ago. Many of the names of the Baptist Messenger staff have changed over the years, but one that has been consistent for the last 18 is Bob Nigh, managing editor.

This week, I’ll attend Bob’s retirement party. Most people don’t know this, but when Bob was born, the Dead Sea wasn’t even sick. And he brags that he sat next to Jesus in third grade. I didn’t believe him until he showed me one of his yearbooks, and there was a picture of J. Nazareth right before B. Nigh.

I’ll miss Bob. You see, friends are hard to come by. I’m talking about real friends, the kind who love you no matter what you’ve said or done. Here are five reasons I call Bob my friend:

1. Friends are like-minded.

The book of Amos says it best. (Yes, there is a book of Amos in the Bible, right next to the book of Andy.) “Do two walk together unless they have agreed to do so?” (Amos 3:3). Friendship is centered around like-mindedness. Bob and I have a lot in common. Our birthdays are one day apart, but he is a year older than I am. We love sharing about our faith, family and especially our grandkids. (I hear he’s the world’s greatest Pa Pa, but I’m trying to catch up.)

2. Friends are encouragers.

No one, and I mean no one, has written me more notes complimenting, bragging on, or responding to my writing than Bob. It takes time to respond to another person, and he finds me worthy of his time. That encourages me in the same way that Paul instructed the Thessalonians: “Therefore encourage one another with these words” (1 Thess. 4:18).

Most of Bob’s notes are short and simple, but they mean a lot. He might say, “Best article yet!” or “I needed this one.” And I always respond, “Thanks, Bob.”

3. Friends understand each other’s humor.

Bob and I have the same sense of humor. What causes my friends to laugh causes my family to groan, so when you find someone who laughs with you, you’d better hang onto them. Sometimes I send him an email, and he responds in German. It cracks me up when I see “Gott segne Dich, meine Freund,” and have to go to Google Translate to figure out what he means. No one else might think this is funny, but Bob makes me laugh. “He will yet fill your mouth with laughter, and your lips with shouts of joy” (Job 8:21).

4. Friends lay down what they’re doing to spend time with you.

Several times, I’ve dropped into Bob’s office unexpectedly. I know that as an editor, he has pressing deadlines to meet, but each time I come knocking on his door, he stops whatever he’s doing and gives me his time and himself. When Bob talks to you, he makes you feel like you are the only person in the room. (Of course, most of the time, I am the only one in the room.) “Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends” (John 15:13).

5. Friends’ souls are knit together.

I have friends who have come and gone throughout the years. Then there are those friends (and these are few) who have stuck with me through thick and thin. They have walked through some of the most difficult days of my life, and they have also been there at the high points.

I thought about what makes friendships like these different. It’s not that we have the same sense of humor, talk about our grandkids or write for the same publication, but that our souls are knit together. Bob is not only my eternal brother in Christ but one of those heart/soul friends. “After David had finished talking with Saul, Jonathan became one in spirit with David, and he loved him as himself” (1 Sam. 18:1).

Bob, congratulations on your retirement and your faithfulness to our Lord. But more than that, thank you for being my friend.