It's Lent and a time for reflection as part of our journey. What's been on my mind is friends. Friends, acquaintances, loved ones. These are the designations we give to people in our lives and each term has varying degrees of intimacy. But there is a sweet spot that I have found in friendship and for the purposes of today, I will call him Jerry. We all should have a Jerry in our life.
I reserve the term "best friend" for that person closest to me; they know me like a priest knows his Bible. Someone you can share the good times and the not-so-good times with and they will still by your side. Also, I have found quite often that the terms "friend" and "acquaintance" are used interchangeably. They are not the same, but I am not elaborating on that today. Finally, somewhere in the friend designation but not quite in the best friend category is a special area. This person can touch you profoundly and may seem to have been put there by God herself. This person, for me, is Jerry.
Who is this friend-but-not-quite-loved-one I call Jerry, and why should all of us have someone like Jerry in our lives? In fact, you may have a Jerry in your life already and not even know it.
I thought about this a lot due to the positive affect Jerry has had on my life. Thinking about Jesus, He has the apostles. Twelve normal, everyday men who subscribed to his mission and followed Him. Three of them (John, Peter, and James) were closer to him than others. In a strange way it comforts me that these men knew Jesus had courage and fear as they did. They were with Him in the Garden when Jesus was at maybe His most human, questioning His Father but never wavering in his destiny. The Agony in the Garden.
Agony. How many times have I turned to God when I am in agony. Too many to count. I know He is listening. I know He is there. Unfortunately for me, my faith is not always strong and I can’t hear Him. I get frustrated, I even take my anger out on God. Perhaps I am not listening. God knows I am not listening.
God sends in Jerry.
[tweet "When God sends us the gift of friends who tell us what we need--but don't want--to hear. By @pserzo"]
My Jerry happens to be a family man, a Christian but not Catholic, a sometimes preacher, but also non-pushy. We met through our mutual interest in racquetball. I have had the pleasure of watching him preach. We have done a Bible study together. We have gotten together as friends and also compete.
A few years ago I went through a particularly dark time. I prayed for help and I was getting no answers. Confusion and ignominy were beginning to weigh me down and start to take me under. Shame was so prevalent in my psyche I was angry with everyone. It was affecting my work life and my personal life. Where was God, I cried? Yet I knew cognitively I had put myself in this position.
Here is a fact: I do have a best friend. I am lucky to have two best friends. One of them is my wife, but in this instance I needed to speak with someone else before l was able to speak with her. My other best friend, who is a male, does not live near me geographically and I needed to talk to someone face to face. I also knew in my heart that I needed someone who could speak to me and pray for me and with me and not judge me. I knew I had to feel as if the answers were coming from Jesus Himself.
I know your thoughts and I had the same one: Go talk to a priest. This is an absolute viable option. Except in this instance if I was to talk to someone about what was weighing me down, confess if you will, I wanted the person to know me. In this instance I wanted to talk to a person who would potentially tell me something I did not want to hear, yet could be sympathetic. There had to be risk in my confession. In this short exposition this is hard to quantify. What I had to say was not something that easy to share.
I wish I could say I prayed more and then spoke to Jerry. The truth is we played a game of racquetball; my heart and mind were so heavy, I pulled him aside and asked him to meet me for breakfast so I could talk to him. Of course he said yes. I was nervous and unsure if I should go through with this but Jerry in my life is no fluke. He listened, counseled, prayed with me, told me something I did not want to hear. He also shared.
Afterwords, I knew I did the right thing. I felt a weight lift. He was the answer to my prayers put there by whatever you want to call it: an angel, Jesus, God, a divine power. There are no coincidences and prayers are answered. He was in front of me the whole time; it just took me time to realize and understand the people that God puts in my/our path.
I feel fortunate and hope that my story helps you recognize someone in your life who fills this need. In this period of Lent, take time to reflect on those who might be in this special category of friendship. I would put faith in the fact that you do indeed have a friend like Jerry.
Copyright 2017 Peter Serzo
About the Author
Peter Serzo, observer, listener, author, speaker, and blogger. He shares his experiences at different Catholic churches at Dotirome.com and on his popular Priest Podcast, with enlightening conversation with those that lead (not a theology conversation but a conversation on being a priest/leader/human). Peter travels, visiting different Catholic churches satiating his curiosity and desire to spread each parish's uniqueness though his blog and presentations.