If I told you how I met Al, you wouldn’t believe me. He and I talk about it, and we just blink and shake our heads. So I’m just going to skip to our second meeting. I was on the altar team, and I prayed for him. Then the next service started, so we moved to another room where we prayed and talked…through the whole service and next altar ministry time.
But that isn’t what kick started our friendship.
God’s fascination with irony and His somewhat twisted sense of humor is how Al and I came to be friends. You’ll see what I mean.
Believe it or not, I’m an introvert. If you walk into a room full of people, I’ll be the one by the wall. Seriously. I will either be at the podium or by a wall. Those are the two places where I know the social rules and what is expected of me, so that is where I hang out.
When I go to a class or any kind of meeting, I take a book, journal, or something to keep my head down and avoid conversation because I struggle with conversation skills. I don’t really understand that role, so I avoid it. And that is exactly what I was doing when Jesus put Al into my class at church. In fact, Jesus not only put him in my class. He sat him close to me.
Now, I don’t know the whole proper conversation thing, but I do know it is polite to ask how one is doing, so I did. And Jesus laughed really hard…because my hiding place turned into the launch pad for one of my favorite friendships.
We didn’t talk during class, but afterward, we stood in the parking lot and chatted. Usually, we wound down about midnight, but once we talked till nearly two. We sort of wandered all over the map, but mostly, we talked about the Lord and what He was teaching us. The Lord used Al to stretch me, and it was good.
It was also guarded.
It’s easy to be comfortable with someone when I’m in my element—praying for them, offering advice, sharing what I’ve learned, but when life gets hard, I don’t have a lot to say.
Last fall, I quit saying much. I went a few months without emailing or calling, which wasn’t the norm. Al kept in touch. He emailed and sent some text messages. He tried to be connected. I just didn’t know what to say.
Then one day the Lord got pretty stern about my not appreciating His gift. He had given me a friend with discernment, a sincere heart, a heart that seeks Him, a love for my whole family, and the ability to trust vision despite circumstance. Why would I ever consider going into battle without a soldier of his caliber and heart?
I took a deep breath and started to type.
I wrote and cried. I cried because I hurt. I also cried because I was embarrassed. I didn’t like showing him this weak side of me that needed friends so desperately, the side that simply could not weather this storm alone. And, I was embarrassed that I had not told him sooner.
The email took a few hours to write. I’m not sure if it was even coherent. I had no idea when he would write back, but I knew what he would say. I knew he would say, “Jerri, I love you all, and I’m praying for you.” And you know what? He did.
He could have taken offense at the silence, at what I said, at my not wanting to say anything, but he didn’t. Instead, he loves me and my family. He prays for us. He lets us pray for him, and he isn’t afraid of honesty.
He’s proof God has no respect for hiding places.
And he’s in a class by himself.
Copyright Jerri Phillips 2009