Pre-COVID-19, I remember a particular day when I was at church, and I was happy to see my buddy – a 80-ish year old man who always sits in the last pew alone with his rosary beads and prayer book. He didn’t know seeing his familiar face each week made my heart smile. Before I share why seeing him made me happy, I should back up a several months to how our relationship began.
Same place, same day of the week, but about several months earlier I went to mass on a Thursday to pray. My habit has been to arrive about 45-minutes before mass so I have the perfect atmosphere in which to give thanks to God for everything from the preceding week and petition him with my requests for the one to follow. Sometimes I light a candle for my prayer intentions, and other times I quietly kneel in the pew; it largely depends on my mood and whether I have a few extra dollars in my purse to offset the church’s expense.
I vividly remember that on this day, I was feeling pretty hopeless. Confused, worried, fearful, not enough, embarrassed, alone. You name it, and I was feeling it. I needed a candle. I did my thing, returned to the pew, and continued my prayers.
A portion of my prayers during this time in my journey included a request that God send more Godly people into my life. People who could keep advancing my faith; people who were 4s and 5s on the ‘relationship with God’ scale; people who could pray for me, my husband, and my kids; people who simply lived His Word each day.
I had been praying for these people to enter my life for several months before this encounter, so I don’t want to set the impression that I prayed for it and then two minutes later it happened (although that wouldn’t be beneath Jesus’s capabilities). But this particular day was when I saw this same sweet gentleman, for the first time.
I was sitting a row or two in front of him. After my prayers, he caught my attention and I couldn’t help but smile at him. He was just ‘that’ type of 80-ish year old that’ll make you do that…I know you know the type. Anyway, after I smiled and gave a little wave, I turned back around and let my mind imagine his story, and what prayers occupied his mind.
A few minutes later, he walked up behind where I was sitting and told me he wanted me to know that I seemed like a “pleasant person” and that “he wasn’t just saying that either.” I smiled even bigger, told him that it was so sweet of him, and thanked him. As quick as the conversation started, it ended. But, I was so rejoiced in the fact that this stranger thought that I was kind, despite not knowing anything about me, or my current struggles. He warmed my heart so much I remember texting my girlfriend Amber about it right after church.
We had seen each other several weeks thereafter, but nothing but a quick wave and a large smile.
One day I brought my kids, which was unusual for a Thursday, and the sight of them made him beam. Still nothing but a quick wave and a large smile, but I know he was watching them during mass with a joyful heart.
Fast forward to this particular day, finally, I know.
I saw my buddy. Same wave, and same large smile. He pointed to the emptiness besides me as if to ask where my kids were. I whispered, “They couldn’t come today.” He then walked up behind me and said, “I can tell you’re such a good mom and that they love you very much.” I replied with, “Thanks. They certainly test my patience at times, though.”
He was confused by my statement and said, “Really? It must be the little girl?” And I said, “No, actually it’s my son. He can be a handful sometimes.” He said, “Hmmm, I would have never guessed. Anyway, you’re a great mom. Your husband must be so proud to have you around.”
As much as they’re compliments, they’re nuggets of reminders of what “once was” in my life. I certainly didn’t want to make him feel bad, but I didn’t think it was appropriate to lie by omission either, after all I was in church, so I simply said, “I just pray he comes home.” “Military?” he asked? “No, he wasn’t happy, so he filed for divorce.”
This poor man was visibly sad, and probably a little embarrassed to have gotten so personal.
Then he said, “I’m in a bunch of men’s prayer groups in the area all throughout the week. What’s your name…first name only.” “Corey,” I replied.
“Corey, I’ll pray for you, and your husband, and I’ll have my friends, pray, too.” I conveyed my appreciation to him. The sight of a circle full of 80-ish old men offering up prayer intentions for the people they knew brought an instant smile to my soul.
I turned around, eyes welled with tears, and looked at Jesus on the cross in front of me and said, “Thank you, Jesus.”
That night, Jesus reminded me of Matthew 7 in verses 7 and 8:
“Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.”
Keep petitioning the Lord for what it is you want, and He will provide. It may not be today, tomorrow, or the next day. But you must be patient and know that your prayers will be answered when God thinks you’re ready to receive.
And prayers? They’re the best gift you can give someone! So, before you close your eyes today, pray for at least one person. And if you’re feeling extra bold, let them know. It may be the very music their ears need to hear right now.
As for my buddy? I’ve come to learn his name is Phil. I can’t wait for the restrictions to be lifted and church services to resume because I sure miss smiling and waving at him!