Monday, February 4, 2008

Cliff Diving

There’s a great conversation going on out in the world. I think we ought to be a part of it since it’s about us…and Him. You know – “Him”…the guy we like to talk about with each other, but not about “Him” with them. Too often we’ve either painted this picture of an unpleasant angry tyrant of a father, or left them to figure it out on their own. They’ve chosen the latter – much to the master’s joy.

We can’t enter into this conversation with them until we first have a relationship with them. We can’t have a relationship with them if we don’t listen to what they have to say, or make it clear we don't like the way they say it. I used to think I needed to convince people I was right about God and they needed to embrace my view of Him. I find more and more I’m embracing some of their view of Him. I truly believe “authenticity” – buzz word or not, cliché or not – is where God is taking His people. Can we be real enough with Him to be real enough with them, and each other to reach them?

I’ve got a friend named Brent that we have nicknamed “Cliff.” The reason we call him that is sometimes He can take a thought, or comment, or joke, right to the edge, and then in a fit of unbridled insanity push it right over the edge into the abyss. I now call this “cliff diving.” What was laughter now turns to moans and groans. A lot like a dog and a leg.

What I love about Brent is he’s often saying what others are thinking but just don’t have the courage or “audacity” to say. Audacious and bodacious, or said another way “BIG AND BOLD” are qualities I can embrace in anyone these days. The pious stuffy attitude of “well I never!” is not a part of his fabric. However, the genuine love of Christ oozes from him whenever he’s around.

I love when he’s around because I know I can be me with all of my dirt. He might look at me and say “Hey! You might want to sweep that up! And then after a short pause bust out in a chortle and say “NAH! I wuz just kiddin. Leave it there, it looks nice on you!” He will then bust into this booming laugh, and cough, and silent shake that makes everyone stop what they’re doing to see if he’s going to pass out – again.

That is Brent embracing my life in Christ, and recognizing the Potter isn’t finished with me yet - I'm still the lump of clay. Why can’t I do that for others? There’s a part of me that wants to hold people accountable so we can all grow in God’s love and maturity - well maturity. For Brent Jones (he asked me to use his last name if I ever put it in a book or got published :) his cliff diving may be more maturity than any piety that could be on display – an understanding that God ain’t leavin us even if we drop the dust pan.

That type of genuine friendship and acceptance is what the world is looking for. They know they can get it “out there” but they’ve not been sold on the idea that they can get it “in here” (in the community of believers). It should be part of our mission to change that misconception, but first it must be a misconception and not a reality. Until we change and become the corner pub, we’ll never be a hospital or even a classroom. Maybe we can start in our living rooms.

Most relationships are based on one criteria: How a person makes us feel when we’re around them. If someone makes us feel special, desired, needed, wanted, intelligent, or essential in their eyes, chances are good we are going to spend a lot of time with them. On the surface that sounds pretty selfish. Stroke my ego – get my time. Give the cynicism a rest for a minute.

We are selfish creatures by our very nature. We exit the womb pissed off that someone drained the tub and ran us through a vice grip turning us into the seed of Beldar Conehead, and then covered us with cottage cheese and blood. As soon as the nurse has us cleaned and dressed like a Havalina hog at a campsite, we’re screaming for the teet and messing our drawers. Our very first relationships were built on what we can get, and getting it by whatever means necessary (which usually involved crying and crap) - little "Me Monsters" as one comic put it.

As adults, hopefully we have learned a more covert method of manipulation. However, I still see a great deal of crying and pooping going on in the church. As we mature, I think it is incumbent upon us to learn truth in communication instead of the art of exploitation. The person that can be authentic in word and deed while conveying to their counterpart their value will have a friend for life. Ally always tells me, “People just want to matter.” They want to be in that place like the theme song from Cheers,

“Where everybody knows your name, and they're always glad you came. You wanna be where you can see, our troubles are all the same. You wanna be where everybody knows your name.”

It’s crazy to me that the pub can be a better place of community than the church; a place where you can speak freely unencumbered by the fear of rejection. The secular world can teach us a few things if we’ll just watch and pray. If you can let someone know that they are truly valued and matter to you, and what happens to them matters to you, they will have your back because they know you’ve got theirs. On that note, you can’t have someone’s back if you haven’t first looked them in the eye. And conversely, you can’t get in someone’s face unless you’ve first had their back.

Ally and I try to put this into practice. We’re pretty transparent, and some might say she’s even anointed at it. She'll drag out some piece of our "dirty laundry" and show off a stain or two. What is great about that is there is often an interesting or funny story of what left the mark, so we get to laugh about the once shed tears. We wrestle with what is TMI, or what is Tim, or Ally, or yes even Jesus, or all of the above, or none of the above.

As I continue my pursuit of his hem and his Him, I’m sure I’ll take a flight off a cliff periodically and even splat a belly flop or two thanks to my buddy Brent. Then we can compare bruises at the bottom and laugh about them on our way back up. I love you Brent Jones – you inspire me to new depths of love and laughter in Him. Thanks for having my back.

Tim

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