I made a new friend this weekend. His name is Brian and he lives north of Nashville. There is no sense going into where or how I came across this guy because it doesn't matter. Suffice it to say it was a difficult scenario in which to meet a guy and get to know him, but God, being the Infinite Practical Joker, (thanks once again to my buddy Rick Elias for that eternally clever quotable quote) had it in His plan for us to meet.
Right off the bat I didn't care for the guy. He is everything I hate about living here. He is a real "country boy". He lives up to that stereotype as if it were created especially for him. I didn't care much for him at all. Until we spoke...
I had begun a conversation about God with another man and Brian overheard me and was so angry about it he was visibly shaking. He's about my size and I thought for a minute he was going to lose his composure altogether and this was going to get ugly.
I hadn't been taking any sort of aggressive or proselytizing tone so I didn't know how to continue my conversation with the man I was talking with, and not send this guy over the edge. But I soldiered on and everything calmed down. I guess my non judgemental tone was the key.
Then an amazing thing happened. About fifteen minutes after I had stopped talking with the other guy, Brian sought me out in private. He plopped his big old country self down on the bench next to me and started asking me about my belief in God. Before I could answer he started relating his struggles with God. He is a divorcee with two boys ages 6 and 9. He is a hard drinking, hard living man with tattoos and a beer gut and a rough, uncultured way about him.
You might not have him figured for a broken heart but believe me...he has one.
He began to tell me how he lost everything when he got divorced. His wife was the love of his life and his two boys are his pride and joy. He feels like his life has no meaning without them. He said he once prayed for God to send him someone new to love and after a while it appeared that God did that. He met a woman he thought loved him and he loved her and her children. Lately, he says, she is acting differently and he fears it's over. He told me "I am so tired of starting over". Then he told me "you don't know man, how much I could just go over there in the corner of this room and curl up in a ball and cry...and I feel like that a lot. I miss my kids and my wife so much it is all I can do to live each day. I've thought about killing myself more than once and the only reason I don't is my boys." Then I looked right at him and I was able to tell him that I understood him completely. I told him my own story and he looked at me with that same, unmistakable "thousand yard stare" that divorced men have. He realized he had a friend and a brother who had been through the pain he is in right now. In my heart I was thankful for the pain I have been through because God knew all along that I would meet Brian that day, and Brian needed to hear what I had to say. Just the simple act of telling him that he wasn't alone in his pain was like a visible burden being lifted off him. I'm looking forward to staying in touch with Brian and hopefully helping him in his struggles and in that, gaining more strength for my own struggles.
My meeting with Brian was well-timed because I was doubting the validity of this fledgling ministry and of the vision I had for helping guys like me. Sitting next to Brian was like sitting next to myself about 5 years ago. I saw, from the third person, how much pain I was in back then. It was enormous. More people have to realize that dad's hurt too and we don't always get the same measure of compassion because we are men. Brian would qualify as a "man's man" by many standards and believe me...he needs a lot of compassion and healing right now. If you read this and you think about it...say a prayer for him.