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