I want God to be a true friend, One who's always glad to see me
(picture courtesy of business-marketing-tactics.com)
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.