Sunday, March 27, 2011

What it Really Means to be Free

We have a friend who just got out of jail on Tuesday.

We have a friend who is 55 and just got out of jail on Tuesday.

We have a friend who is 55 and an alcoholic and just got out of jail on Tuesday.

We have a friend who is 55 and homeless and an alcoholic and he just got out of jail on Tuesday.

We didn't know he was getting out on Tuesday.

We thought it would be Friday.

And we were his call.

Just before 5 pm, while I'm rushing around, clapping my hands and snapping my fingers in hopes that some dinner will appear and the whiners will surrender, the phone rings and it's him. Our friend. He's been let out early. He needs a ride.

He needs a ride back to...his tent, on the bank of the river.

I'm so excited that I almost start to cry, because I can hear it in his voice - he's been set free.

Cory drives over to the jail and I tell him to bring him back here, because you can't just take your set-free friend back to his tent with no dinner.

I wring my hands over the meal on the stove: microwaved hot dogs and Kraft Mac & Cheese. It's so...processed. And dumb. I'm thinking my meal is dumb. If only I had known, I would have made a real feast. I'd have done it up right.

But our friend walks in and he says, "Nothing goes together better than hot dogs and macaroni and cheese." He extends his hand and I ignore it and go straight for his shoulders and I hug them and I keep thinking, "You've been set free."

I want to weave an analogy out of captivity and freedom and hot dogs and banana cake. I want to stir them and stir them until they become the picture of redemption, the kind that never goes away, the kind that takes the dirty tents we've pitched in the dark and stretches them tall and strong into a castle.

But there's no time for analogies, and he's not really the analogy kind of guy. So instead, I rub my hand across his back as I say goodbye and I send him on his way with a belly full of odds-and-ends.

At night, I toss and turn over the thought of me under a blanket that heats up, inside a house that heats up, when all the while, he's in his tent with a bottle of something to keep him warm. I want more for him, but the truth is, this is what he knows, and he probably feels like he's Home.

I know this first-hand, from all of the nights I chose to take up residence in my own kind of dingy tent, drunk as a skunk on lies and shame. There was only ever one way out.

So, how do we show him that Home is something greater than he's imagined?

Would knowing that change anything?

It's not my job, to make his heart see. I couldn't do it. It's just not possible.

But we can bring him into our home. We can bake him a cake and buy him shoes. We can show him love, love, love, and maybe his glasses will start to turn all love-tinted and maybe then he'll look out and see truth and he'll begin to listen for the only voice that can tell him anything at all.

We can celebrate this small freedom with him, for now. And when he finally sees the real kind of freedom, we'll celebrate that with him, too. Big time.

We've been told that the heart is just too far gone to save
But grace tells us another story
Where glory sends hopelessness away
Oh grace tells us another story
-Mercy Me Grace Tells Another Story

76 comments:

  1. The sad thing is, that inside that shell of a man is a little boy that just wants to be loved. And that's likely how the bottle got into his hand in the first place. I know this, because he's my father-in-law.

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  2. beautiful!
    praying for your friend! praying for y'all too-that you will be a light and encouragement to his soul, as you point him to the one who sets captives free! Jesus!!
    xo

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  3. Shannan, This is exactly how I feel about the unbeknownst to me, homeless man down the road, who was charged with murdering our neighbour. Because two people lost their lives that night. We let them both down. And my heart is broken.

    I wish I could have served him hot dogs and mac and cheese for dinner and love and a heaping dollop of respect and dignity for dessert.

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  4. Law. Do you know how much I think about your friend? I think about making him boxes of things and sending it to jail. And then he got out. And then I want to drive to your house and meet him. I want to feed him banana cake and buy him shoes. I think of him when I work out and I want to win that money - and you know why. I love Shan. And I love your friend. And I love love and I love God and joy and freedom. And I don't like how we can't fix things - but we do know the one that can - and my comment is rambling - cause my heart is swelled up and leaking with joy - just like I know our Father's heart is right now - when he looks down at your farmhouse and the love burstin' the beams in it.

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  5. Beautiful, once again I am touched by your family care for others. You continue to amaze and inspire me to be Gods hands, thank you

    BTW Hotdog and mac and chesse is one of our fav. combos

    Cha Cha

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  6. Glad you friend is free. I remember when my dad got out of jail. I wanted so bad to change his ways and his feeling on life! It didn't work for me =(

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  7. You astonish and amaze me... the things you are teaching your beautiful little ones by your example - makes me realize I have a long way to go to showing my WeeMan how to be a good strong compassionate Christian man. I need to stop living in my little world and see the bigger picture out there.

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  8. Love, grace and mac & cheese....awesome.

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  9. that is beautiful & powerful
    & real & the gospel
    all wrapped up in a hotdog & mac and cheese.
    i love it
    &
    i love that mercy me song
    too
    xo

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  10. Thank you. Tonight I needed that.

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  11. with most people, actions speak louder than words anyway. God will use you guys, there's no doubt He has and will again.

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  12. What a beautiful story. Thanks for giving us a peek into your steamed-up kitchen window tonight. And especially thanks for loving this man and celebrating his freedom with him.

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  13. There's a Shaun Groves song called 'Jesus' that comes to mind as I read this. My husband and I live in the inner city to/and do ministry here.
    It was not until we moved here that I really understood the idea of 'it is for freedom that we have been set free,' nor how much addiction and bondage I live in. Praying for your friend, and your family as you love one who the world sees as unworthy of redemption and Christ sees as 'the least of these.'
    Andrea

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  14. Did you just illustrate 1 Peter 4:8-11? I'd say your living it. Love. Deep love!

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  15. You are such an amazing woman....such an example of a Godly, loving woman. You are changing lives, and I am so thankful to know you.

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  16. Oh how touching your posts are! They reach through my chest to my heart and strum the strings there. I feel for people I've never met and am proud of you, a woman I have never met, for both putting tough emotions into words and also always extending your hand to help others. You are inspiration. :)

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  17. Your heart is beautiful. Blessings to you and yours and your friend.

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  18. I will pray and pray for your friend. Pray and pray. Thank you for being there for him with macaroni and cheese and hotdogs.
    You are a blessing.

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  19. You and Cory are the two of the most compassionate and God honouring people I've come across.To your friend I send hope, to you two I send thanks..Thanks for caring outside of your family..Three cheers for Shannan and Cory..xx

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  20. wow! this is an awesome story! thanks for sharing!

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  21. Sometimes Jesus comes to one through mac and cheese. Good job my friend. Your loving makes me happy. Praying for your friend. Praying he feels the love.

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  22. You are my new favorite blog, my fellow Hoosier who lives in Ohio [isn't that right?!!].

    Love your writing style!!!

    Thank you for posting this. We can only do so much for people -- show them love and point them to Jesus.

    Rebecca

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  23. You live what you believe and that aspect touches me deeply. How blessed your friend is to have your love, even if he does not think he needs or wants it or even if he rejects it....you are still touching him for Jesus sake and truly it takes my breath away. Like many before me has written, what you are teaching your children by example is "reality" and Jesus love all wrapped up in mac and cheese and hot dogs. Why not send this post to magazines, not just Christian ones either. The world needs to see this story, especially now. Please think about it. Blessings.

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  24. At Thanksgiving my nephew invited a couple to enjoy the feast with us, at theend of the evening he was walking out of the door to take them home and the girl was putting on this large snowsuit, it had been snowing I thought to myself but not enough to wear that. As he left he told me they lived behind the building he worked in, and I can't tell you how unsettled I felt the rest of that evening thinking about how spoiled/blessed we are. It is stories like these that remind us of the PERSON behind the layers and unshaven hair. I hope your friend gets to meet Jesus some day.

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  25. Love this. Its beautiful, you and your wee ones and that Corey are beautiful people. And your friend is a beautiful man. Others have said it right all in their writing above. This does my heart good to read/hear so many others with amazingly beautiful hearts feeling compassion and grace with the world....

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  26. Thank you so much for sharing with us!

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  27. take that to a church on a sunday morning. there are so many of us that want to hear that story.

    well done.

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  28. Thanks for sharing your story and reminding us all what real Christ-love looks like.

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  29. This made me cry a little bit. Congrats on your article that was published, but I think this one should also be published.

    Love in action.

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  30. For once I am speechless. Your words do that to me some times! Don't stop writing things like this. Please! Becky G. in GA

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  31. uggghhh! *tears* I am in a very similar situation with someone very dear to me and I needed to read this so THANK YOU!

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  32. Wow...I know that man. Well, not THAT man, but one just like him. I've known him all my life and watched as he struggles with addiction and shame and guilt. I've seen the ups an downs as he fights hard against this thing that sucks him in and I've prayed and hoped for change. So you don't know how freeing that one statement is: "It's not my job, to make his heart see."

    Thank you Shannan. I needed to hear that today, not just about my precious uncle mentioned above, but also about my brothers who shy away from all things spiritual, the cousin who has deemed God a hoax. It's not my job to make them see. All I can do is love. "Owe no one anything except to love one another."

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  33. What a loving post. Bless you and your family's hearts as you share love, joy and kindness with your friend. God works in mysterious ways His wonders to perform. The hot dogs and mac and cheese, might have been just the start.

    Love and hugs ~ FlowerLady

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  34. It warms me to no end that you are so kind. It's so easy to judge especially when alcoholism has the stigma attached to it that people do it willingly. But it is a disease. And hotdogs and mac and cheese. I'm glad you said it. It's what I feed them at least once a week!

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  35. your heart is so big. i'm thankful to have found your blog, so often you bring me back to center. your friend has another chance, and now he's been added to so many prayer lists... because of you, because of Him.

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  36. You guys are wonderful, wonderful people! To give him such love and acceptance is really what Jesus would have done.

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  37. Praying for you and your family as you live Love and Truth for this man.

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  38. Oh Shannan, the God you serve is all that--love and grace and mercy and Home. I want to shout your story (His story!) from the rooftops. Thank you for writing this.

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  39. Great post! Tell me you've read The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls?

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  40. God says love others as you love yourself and I think that mac and cheese is the perfect vessel. You have a beautiful heart!

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  41. i love your heart. no matter how far one drifts, it's always nice to have an anchor. a harbor. a home. it's so nice that you are that safe place for him. the way back. xoxo

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  42. Thank you for showing this man mercy and grace and true Christian love.

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  43. Shannon, I have a whole family of addicts, some of them homeless , some of them not. All I do is tell them about this nobody that can tell everybody about somebody who can save anybody. Blessings to you and yours.

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  45. You have no idea the love lessons you are teaching your children. When I was a few years older than Calvin, my parents picked up a gentleman on the side of the road, squeezed him in our little chevet of a car, had him shower, gave him clean clothes, fed him and then took him to his next destination. My first thought..."dad, what in the world are you doing?" My second thought, "this might be Jesus and how will be treat him today." I have never forgotten this man and hope that the seed we planted that day as a family in his life lives on. You can plant the seed and pray it grows!
    -Heather P.

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  46. i'm saying a prayer that that tent would become the hope of heaven in his soul, that that bottle would be broken and that the Holy Spirit himself would be his drink, and that your family is blessed beyond measure for being the hands and feet of Jesus...

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  47. Wow, Shannan. This is amazing. Wish I'd read this before I emailed you because now I feel a whole new email coming on.

    Love this.

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  48. Be still my heart.
    I'm speechless once again, Farmgirl.

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  49. I am so happy for him. God placed you right smack dab in his life for a reason. And I needed a reminder of what freedom and grace are, thank you! We should be dancing and singing each and everyday.

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  50. As a counselor, I see this often. And it never gets any easier come bed time when one of my 16-year students packs up their garbage bag (their whole life in there) after getting out of juvie, and then heading for the nearest shelter. I think, "At least they're warm and fed tonight," but that doesn't prevent me from tossing all night long, wondering if it's strange for them to be sleeping on a cot next to a stranger, or not sure where they'll be staying their next night. But God bless the lovely people of the world who look out for them as best we can - even though they can probably look after themselves better than we ever could.

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  51. How in the world did you just speak so specifically to something we have been pondering/stressing about? Amazing. Amazing God.

    My boys have been heart broken for someone they call "Mr Someone"...a homeless man behind a favorite restaurant of ours. We've been struggling with what to do...for his life by the river is what he knows. Anyway....thank you.

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  52. i've been heartsick trying to love somebody in my little corner of earth...but you're right, it's not my job to make his heart see. it's just my job to do the loving.

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  53. I hate alcohol. I just do. I've seen it destroy members of my family.

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  54. you are offering him another type of freedom. freedom from judgement. THAT is the real love of Christ.

    I just love you.

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  55. This touched me so. Known many of these in my life. May I always be as compassionate and loving as you.

    I linked up this post. Please see.

    Danielle
    http://amomseyeview-lulu.blogspot.com/2011/03/blog-post_28.html

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  56. Girlfriend, sing til the whole world hears!!!!

    Love ya...

    Also loved the previous post and your article was AWESOME!! (And very true... I've suffered many a bad bridesmaid dress, and the ones I chose for mine were horrific but I wore them with pride, and so did my girls... all for love and friendship!)

    Mwah! (So jealous of you and Becky by the way. Just needed to be said, and I told her so already. JEALOUS!!!)

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  57. Oh, I loved this Shannan! What an awesome picture of love that was! Praying tonight that that picture sheds light on the amazing love of God!

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  58. My dearest friend with flowers on her farm. I have been resisting commenting on this topic. Not because of your compassion, because I love your heart. I resisted, because I once lived as this man. My daughter Emily wears the scars of my battle with the bottle, my battle with shame. The sheets of my bed became my tent. I would retreat there, for what I thought was safety. There were a handful in my life that never gave up. They believed. Not in me, but the one who gives the breath to my life. Thank God for them, and thank God for the Flower Patch Farmgirl.
    ~G~

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  59. giosmama26@yahoo.comMarch 28, 2011 at 10:56 PM

    You're truly something special Shannan. A true blessing from the man above. It's wonderful what you and your family did for your friend. Your heart is pure gold.

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  60. i lovelovelove this. it's beautiful. and maybe someday he will see the truth.

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  61. Shannon,

    Thanks for sharing this post. I think that often we get so busy with "our own little world" that we have a need to read/hear of happenings outside our circle to help keep life in perspective.

    A suggestion.... Sure would like to have a "dot" to click on so I could quickly share with others.

    Thanks again. Connie

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  62. Free is good. Even when it comes in bits and pieces. Or waves. Glimpses of free are filled up with hope and smiles and warmth and light. It strikes me that there's "free from" and "free to" and maybe your friend (and a few of mine, if I'm honest about it) is someplace right between the two.

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  63. FPFG I really love this post. Someday I want to sit down with you and share some guacamole (I make a mean, scratch that, a mild but yummy guac) or even a bowl of cereal.

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  64. I tried to explain Grace to Nora yesterday. It seemed so complicated putting it into words. . . but you've shown how effortless it can be to give it. I'm praying for your friend and thanking the Lord I have one like you.

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  65. I love your heart. Love what you practice, what you share and how accessible it all is. Your openness and non-judgement lets others in to a world that they thought they might not be a part of. You know? I think you know what I mean.

    It doesn't so much matter what Package honesty, grace, generosity and kindness come in or come with. It's the intention, the hope and the love that shines and unites.

    I am a believer.

    xo

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  66. Oh Lord, give me eyes to see! I want to love like this but so often I run around wrapped up in...nothing...and just don't see the ones around me who need hugs and mac and cheese and hot dogs and grace. Thanks so much for the inspiration!

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  67. oh, how marvelous to stumble upon this post, not even being familiar with the author or this blog! i am in my 3rd year of jail ministry, telling female inmates about Jesus each Tuesday night, & mentoring those who, once released, genuinely desire to use their new-found freedom to turn their lives around! i am successfully mentoring just such a woman for 6 months now, & she is joyfully walking in a transformed & ever-transforming life! thank you for your openness & your willing heart to reach out to the ones that are considered by society to be "the least of these!"

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  68. I ended up here from the Nest Files and I just want you to know that I think this is a beautiful, perfect post. And that I've bookmarked your site. :-)

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  69. Girl, you brought the house down with this post. I hope your friend finds true freedom. I have some dear ones I'm hoping that for as well. Beautiful, beautiful words.

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  70. This SO resonated. It has been a week here....hard, fantastic, brutal, beautiful. What keeps coming to me is this....I am neither capable of nor responsible to fix it. I am called to be present and love....and that has made all the difference!

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  71. This life you are living must be so exhaustingly exhilarating Shanny. This is good stuff you are up to and you are making a difference.

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