It was one of those days! You know the kind I’m talking about? The ones that have you wondering why you even got out of bed and it’s only 9 am. A few months earlier I had taken a new job hoping it would be full of opportunities and a bright future, but so far it had been anything but that. When I took the position, I received no training or instruction, except my direct supervisor saying over and over, “the sky is the limit”. Well by this time just hearing those words caused anger and frustration to consume me. I had no idea what I was doing, and all this guy would say anytime I asked for advice on how to carry out my duties or accomplish my goals was, “the sky is the limit’. I woke up everyday and felt utterly lost, confused, worthless, and angry. If the sky was the limit, I didn’t even know how to get off the ground and apparently, I wasn’t going to get any help.
So, by 9 am already feeling horrible I got a message from my boss, and it said that the staff would be having a meeting at 11am and I was expected to call in to take part. Now we had never had a staff meeting in the two month I had been with this company so this was unexpected, but I was hopeful that maybe I would get some answers finally or at least hear what others were doing. At 11 am I joined the meeting through Zoom and waited as all the other staff joined in as well. As soon as everyone else was present my supervisor started speaking and it was quickly clear that this was not going to be a meeting that was going to be helpful. This was one of those meetings a boss calls because he just got yelled at and so he decides he’s going to take it out on his staff. Within a few minutes he started calling me out directly and saying I wasn’t doing my job and I had better step it up or I would run the risk of being terminated. As I sat there listening, I began to experience every emotion possible, but the top of the list was anxiety.
As soon as the meeting was over, I headed out to the company van I was provided to do my work and headed down the road. Now I still had no idea what I was doing, and the added stress and anxiety caused by the staff meeting wasn’t helping me to think clearly. As I drove down the road my mind was racing, I felt overwhelmed and completely alone. I needed to talk to someone and just let it all out. I needed to express the rollercoaster of emotions I was experiencing and not be judged; most of all I needed to not feel like I didn’t matter. As I drove feeling more anxious, I had no idea what to do or who to reach out to and that’s when I saw it. Laying there among the collection of business cards I had picked up over the last two months was a black card with the word BrewPastors emblazoned in white letters on it.
I had met Joe Franz a few times; we attended the same church, but we weren’t close. Our interactions had been that of acquaintance, someone you’d recognize at the grocery store and maybe give a head nod to as you passed by to say hello, but that was as deep as we had ever gotten. Then one night I was sitting at a local brewery talking to a friend and she introduced me to Joe officially. That night Joe was launching a new nonprofit that God had laid on his heart and it was called, BrewPastors. He explained to me that BrewPastors were a group of people who, “wanted to do life with people”. Now, this was right in the middle of a pandemic and a time that more people felt alone and isolated than ever before. He explained that people could get on the website and reach out to a BrewPastor and schedule a time and location to meet up and just talk. Seemed simple and yet something that so many people needed. As Joe left to go back to the group who were attending the launch event, he handed me his card and I slipped it into my pocket.
So, when I looked down and saw Joe’s card there on the passenger seat of my van I remembered his words, “we want to do life with people”. After the morning I had that was what I needed, someone to meet with, have a beer, talk about how I was feeling and maybe help me figure this all out. I pulled the van into a gas station and grabbed the card from the seat and looked at it. As I was checking it out my first thoughts were, “do I really want to meet someone and let them see just what a wreck I am! I mean I’ll have to share that I stink at my job, that I’m anxious, angry, and I’m scared”. As one part of my mind did it’s best to quickly come up with a million reasons to not meet someone, another part was telling me that this might be just what I needed. As my mind and emotions did acrobatics, I picked up my phone and entered the web address on the bottom of Joe’s card https://brewpastors.org . When the site popped up, I found a link that said, “talk to a Brewpastor”. I clicked it and sent a message that I’d like to meet someone at a local brewery and talk. Honestly, I still figured I could back out with some excuse of being too busy or that something came up if I chickened out.
It wasn’t long after sending in the request to meet someone that Joe sent me a text. We set up a time and a place to meet that evening and I told him I was looking forward to it. The truth was I was still nervous. It felt a little strange to be going to talk with someone about my feelings and the crazy life of stress and anxiety that I was living every day, but I told myself maybe it would just be kind of like meeting a friend for a beer. Maybe it would help relieve some of the stress I had been consumed with every day, if not I figured at the very least, I’ll get a good beer that evening. With that I decided I’d show up at the agreed upon time and place.
I showed up to the brewery not really knowing what to expect and a little apprehensive. As I walked in Joe saw me and he waved to get my attention and I made my way to the table. As I walked over, and we greeted each other, I was still kind of nervous and unsure of sharing too much. I had decided I’d grab a beer and maybe chat, but no way was I letting him know just how crazy I felt. I figured if I did, he would just judge me, and I had experienced enough of that for a lifetime in the past. We started talking and Joe thanked me for reaching out. This shocked me a little, why would he thank me for meeting him, as I was the one who had asked him to meet me. To be transparent I kind of assumed I had dragged this guy out for the evening and he would probably rather be doing something else other than just hearing my problems. I couldn’t imagine he was thankful to be there, but it didn’t take long for me to realize I was completely wrong. As we continued to talk it became apparent that Joe was thankful to be there because he genuinely cared about people and was truly passionate about walking through their life with them. In a short amount of time all the barriers I had tried to build on my way in crumbled, this wasn’t strange at all, just two new friends meeting for a beer and talking.
I started to tell Joe about my day and the past few months at work and something strange happened, he listened to me. He didn’t judge me. He didn’t make fun of me. He didn’t seem bored and didn’t once seem bothered to be there. He listened to me and encouraged me. As I continued to talk, I felt safe to share more of my story with Joe. Stuff I had tried to hide from most people for years. I wasn’t even sure why I was sharing these things that I had worked so hard to bury away from anyone else’s view, but I felt safe to unbury them and as I did it felt freeing. Joe wasn’t giving me advice or telling me how to fix my life, he was still listening. After a few hours past I couldn’t believe I had told him so much and by now we didn’t feel like two strangers meeting; over those few hours I felt like I had met a friend.
After that first night talking over a beer, Joe would reach out and check in and see how I was doing. We started to set up times to hang out and talk regularly and each time our friendship grew. I started to realize just how much I was lacking genuine friendships in my life and the support of other men. It’s something we just don’t do well in our society. I have worked in the mental health field for most of my adult life and remember making the comment on several occasions that if people cultivated real friendships that were built on trust, support, and true caring for each other we could improve the mental health of everyone. While I believed that, I hadn’t been good at cultivating those type of friendships in my own life. That was until now.
Joe and I met regularly over the next year and it amazed me how much had changed. Now instead of being nervous, I looked forward to hanging out and talking over a pint at one of our local breweries. Now instead of walking in and making plans about how much I was going to hide about my life, I couldn’t wait to share with my friend. Our friendship had become a source of support and encouragement, not just in the good times of life, but in the struggles as well. I had found out what Joe meant by, “doing life with people” and over this year had experienced just how life changing cultivating true friendships could really be. The more I experienced the benefits of this type of friendship the more I wanted to help other experience it as well. I knew there were other men and women in our community, and communities across our country, that needed the support of people who could do life with them. So, I began to pray about how God could use the experience I had over the past year to help others.
Not knowing that I had begun to pray about how God could use me to help others. Joe had also started to pray about it as well. One night as we met to have a beer and talk Joe mentioned that he thought God wanted to use me as a BrewPastor. I was incredibly honored, but completely unsure. Could God really use a guy that just a year ago felt so desperate and like his life was a wreck. I asked Joe to give me some time to pray about it and discuss it with my wife. Really, I was just buying time so I could find a way to convincingly tell Joe that I just didn’t think God could use me in this way. But I did pray about it and the more I prayed the more I felt God pushing me to accept Joe’s offer and help others find what I had found. The next time I talked to Joe, I told him I felt like God was leading me to become a BrewPastor and I began the process to come on board.
It wouldn’t be until Joe, and I were out for our first beer and a talk after I had joined BrewPastors that we would see just how much God had been planning this journey all along. That was when Joe shared with me that I had been the very first person ever to go to the BrewPastors website and ask to meet someone. As we sat looking at that old message something caught our eye. There at the top was the time stamp for that first message I had sent in. My horrible day had been in December of 2020, and as we sat here now, great friends and fellow BrewPastors it was December 2021. As a matter of fact, it was almost to the day a year later. I couldn’t imagine when I sent that first message how it would change my life, but now I can’t wait to see how God will use me to help others as I do life with them.