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Posted on Fri, Feb 25, 2011 : 8:30 a.m.

I want God to be a true friend, One who's always glad to see me

By Benjamin Verdi

crowded sidewalk.jpg

Boy I hope I don't know any of these people...

(picture courtesy of

I’m never more uncomfortable than when I look up from my boots and see a friendly face too close. On the Diag, in the hallways, anywhere.

I recognize someone and I instantly try to look busier than I really am, even if it’s one of my friends. I stare at the ground, tear through my pockets for my cellphone, shoot pensive glances at the birds overhead who laugh at my painful awkwardness.

It’s not that I don’t like people. Actually, it’s the opposite. No matter how often I pray for help in this area, I always want to impress the people in my life when I randomly see them out in the world.

It’s amazing, but on a campus of 40,000 people, I only tend to encounter the six or seven people for whom I’m completely unprepared. These people are not always friends, but they’re people I befriended at some point — forced friends — either because I met them in class, at a party, one day at church, or through a mutie: (A mutual friend…yes it’s a term…use it).

These are people I only know through some kind system that made us feel like better friends than we really were, then let us loose to — I thought — never see one another again.

It’s an awkwardness that I remember from when I was little, and I’d see someone walking around New York City who I’d met at summer camp in Massachusetts. When I walked past them at camp we’d talk or laugh and wouldn’t worry about it. But, when I saw that same kid walking around the city, during the chilly school year, I almost pretended that I’d never met them, never returning their friendly glance unless completely cornered and optionless.

Am I a terrible friend? The thought crosses my mind as often as I cross the street. Why am I so hesitant to approach people who already know me? People I’ve already befriended? People I, ironically, don’t need to impress anymore?

I think it has more to do with the way I make friends than the people themselves. That is, what happened to me and my camp friends as a kid has also happened with my high school friends, and has reappeared in college too.

The guys I live with are probably my best friends, but only because I know so much about them by now that we almost can’t help but enjoy each other’s company. We’re guys, so it’s different.

It’s not like most all-girl houses I know that intentionally include a housemate the others can secretly hate, so those other girls — who are actually friends — can bond over something. (Ladies, if you think your house doesn’t have a girl like this…well…)

The point is, who’s to say that had I met four or five other random guys during my first year at Michigan I wouldn’t have completely different friends today? What if I’d had a different freshman year roommate? What if I’d decided not to tryout for club baseball? What if I’d never come to church?

I’m confident that I’d still have friends, but would I like them as much as I like the people I know now?

Did I have any choice in who I befriended here, or were we all just part of an artificial system?

The reason this matters to me, more than just being awkward when I see people on the Diag, comes back to something I mentioned earlier: control. I decide to make friends with people only if I control the situation in which I see them, they see me, and how much we know about each other.

It pains me to say it, but I still believe that if people knew me — the real me, outside of any friend-making system whose limitations I can hide behind — they’d realize I suck, and they’d leave me to the birds.

What I’m really scared of, though, is this friend-dread seeping into my relationship with God. I can sense it starting already as I think about next year and my life beyond Ann Arbor.

I met God in a very small, tight-knit community of Christians on Washthenaw across from The Rock. I was inserted into their community over this past summer, and the experiences I had are things I’ll carry with me forever. But I don’t want to leave that church, this town, these particular moments in my life and have God become just another awkward friend from a past system.

I consider my best friends the people I can run into anywhere and it doesn’t matter. I could randomly see them today, tomorrow, in five years, in the grocery store, in a bathroom, and we’d simply pick up right where we left off.

I want seeing God to be like this. I want Him to be the best friend I ever had. I don’t want to hide anything from Him, or prepare myself before He barges in on me, or taps me on the shoulder as I shuffle to class.

If it never happens with the people I know, I at least want God to be the friend of mine who I can’t wait to see. To whom I obnoxiously holler: “DUDE!” across a quiet study hall. The One who, no matter how much I think I suck, will still want to hang out with me.

The One who’s always excited to see me.

Ben Verdi is a man with a Bible and a laptop and a nasty curveball. He can be reached at



Thu, Mar 3, 2011 : 7:45 p.m.

Loved your article. Just remember that your relationship with God is like your relationship with anyone else, meaning it takes attention and commitment from you to grow it and keep it active. God's going to be there forever no matter what, just make sure you're making time to hang out with him.


Fri, Feb 25, 2011 : 5:05 p.m.

Relax, my friend, and loosen up, your dorkiness will recede,and help you be comfortable around your friends.