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Lions vs. Christians
An unlikely friendship.
Chris Lutes
Friday, July 11, 2014

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Lions vs. Christians

One August morning in 1971 my parents and I packed up our blue Rambler with all my worldly possessions and headed off from my childhood home in Indiana to my new home in Ames, Iowa: Floor 5, Wilson Hall, Iowa State University. That's where I met another incoming freshman, a blond Easterner named Stu.

When I finally cracked the code to Stu's light-speed New Jersey accent (gezindaca for gas in the car; wazmattawiya? for what's the matter with you?), I found him an interesting guy to talk to. My new roommate, Jon, a cowboy from northwestern Iowa, didn't. Stu's go-for-the-juggler sense of wit had the cowboy constantly licking his wounds. So in a couple of weeks my first roommate packed up his pointed boots and Stetson (and wounded ego) and switched rooms with Stu.

When Stu moved in I soon discovered a difference in our likes and dislikes. I liked God. Stu didn't. In fact, Stu's sardonic sense of humor ripped through religion like a Midwestern tornado.

To keep track of his religious putdowns, Stu wrote LIONS on one half of an index card and CHRISTIANS on the other half, and then taped it on the wall at the back of our room. With each verbal punch he made at God or his people, Stu gave himself a vertical mark under "Lions." With each slam I made about something nonreligious (at times I just had to cut loose), I got my own mark under "Christians."

Amid the putdowns, Stu and I became close—like brothers. While he could rip into my beliefs, nobody else dared. Over meals in the dorm cafeteria, I would bow and pray silently. One time, an upperclassman in a Farmall hat said as I lowered my head: "Why pray to God? You should thank the farmers who grew the stuff" (remember, we were in Iowa). Stu cussed the guy and told him to mind his own business. Smiling, I quietly finished my prayer.

Most days Stu and I walked the half mile to central campus together. We also took in a lot of weekend concerts and checked out the local record stores. And while I made Christian friends at Iowa State, none of those friends were like Stu. None were as fun to hang around. None as close. His zany lampooning taught me to lighten up and laugh more, and his sometimes painfully open personality taught me to be more open.

Stu did have a lot of issues. He was insecure. His anger would flare up like the propane in chem lab. He had no patience—especially with himself. Needless to say, we helped each other though many down times.

At the end of the year, Stu went back to New Jersey with a few dozen marks ahead of me on the Lions vs. Christians chart. I went back to Indiana. I didn't attend Iowa State in the fall. I got drafted into the military. We lost contact. I lost my best friend.

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John Nassief

August 04, 2014  8:04am

Good story. I have a friend like Stu that I have kept in touch with for 20 years. Still a Lion but pray for him to seek the light.

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Mark Liebe

July 31, 2014  11:02am

Having also gone to Iowa state a decade later for my graduate degrees, this story really struck home. Though I was not walking with the Lord much at that time (though the Lord put me under the guidance of a very Godly man who mentored me most carefully and dutifully), I so appreciate Chris's depiction of his own struggles with his roomie (I had 13 in my first boarding house, also about a half mile from central campus). In that setting, God came up more than you would think among a collection of beer drinking undergrads (I was one of two grad students in the house at the time), and though no "conversions" were noted during that time, you could definitely see God working in the lives of each one of us (in hindsight and as my own blinders were taken away). In any case, a great story, and one which had me praising God for all the goodness he has shown me, even in the midst of my own willful disobedience at the time. And yet he led me to find Him ultimately over some might rocky ground.

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Bill McKenna

July 18, 2014  6:38am

Some plant, some water, some sew. We need to be used in the spot The Lord puts us in. Enjoyed the story.

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Mark Mcclendon

July 13, 2014  3:42am

I love this story. Friends like stu usually teach me a lot about myself. shouldn't we as Christ followers embrace folks like stu. We never know who God will use in our lives. Lord help me to see with your eyes and with my heart. Amen

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