Monday, July 7, 2014

How To Be Free

He had forgotten our kids were adopted, so when I walked downstairs to meet him for the first time, he expected me to be Asian. Black hair. Diminutive. I'd thought I caught a beat of recovery in his face, that flash of a moment where reality quietly realigns with expectation.

All I'd seen of him was a picture, one tiny square holding bulging biceps and broken teeth.

My husband calls him his friend now. He calls lots of the men from the jail "friend", because that's what becomes of humans after tears are shared, and trays of high-sodium institution food and the Good News.

Our day was already inked up and scheduled out, but he lives in a homeless shelter now, and no one should be homeless on the 4th of July.

I rolled his name around in my head while I dabbed concealer on my dark circles and wished again for a better head of hair.

If you assume this thing comes naturally to me, nothing could be further from the truth.

I wanted him to know peace here. I wanted to welcome him into our world with authenticity, refusing to style a snappier version of who we really are. I wanted to create ample space for him to feel the full lightness of his worth.

But the potato salad was store-bought and I can be shy with new people. I worried about things like dead air and imminent boredom. I didn't know yet that he hates vegetables. All of them.

He held out his hand and I lunged for his neck while he processed me as blondish and taller than him. It was settled. This was what we were doing - becoming friends and kin in a narrow strip of shade on the unfinished back patio.

"Thanks so much for coming!"

"Well, thank you for asking me."

His eyes dropped down to his second-hand lace-ups.

"You guys are pretty much my best friends. My only friends, really."

And it didn't matter at all anymore what he thought of us or our crazy kids or our messy kitchen or the store-bought red potato salad.

If I know anything at all, it's that the shortest routes to relationships are carved when everyone takes two giant steps past the fences of their comfort and toward each other. It has been worth it every time. 

He took his two giant steps and then he took some more and what he brought to my table was vulnerability and honesty. He brought fist bumps for my boys and compliments for the cook. He brought friendship for my honey, the kind that isn't fabricated.

He brought me things I never knew I lacked about sacrifice and discipline and pride in the kind of work that leaves your back aching but your soul uncaged.

Left to my own devices, I prove my foolishness in innumerable ways. I walk away from this wild love God knit and spoke and spilled and flung into the atmosphere like so much glitter.

And I miss the freedom to love beyond my own demographic.
I miss the opportunities to see the ways I align with friends I'm never supposed to have known.
I settle for low-grade fear and call it wisdom.

I can't hack the thought of what I've missed in light of a man who tells me thirty seconds after meeting me that I'm his best friend.

Charcoal wafting laughter floating windows open soda cans popping he taps his thumb on the banged-up kitchen table while he speaks and it's all so easy.

And we're free.


  1. Oh my word, Shan. I love this. Thank you for opening up your home.
    “Let no one ever come to you without leaving better and happier. Be the living expression of God's kindness: kindness in your face, kindness in your eyes, kindness in your smile.” Mother Teresa

    1. That quote!! I've never heard it before and it is AWESOME. Thanks for sharing, B! xo

    2. I recently read the book Wonder by R.J. Palacio and this quote at the end has stuck with me.
      "And if you do this, if you act just a little kinder than necessary, someone else, somewhere, someday, may recognize in you, in every single one of you, the face of God."
      It kind of matches this Mother Teresa quote. It challenged me because isn't that really what this whole Christian living thing is all about? We make it so complicated, so overly-complicated, when really it boils down to just being nice. Love one another is just fancy Bible talk for be nice, don't you think? If I want others to see Jesus in me I need to be just a little nicer than I think is necessary. It could be life-changing for someone (that someone will most likely be me)
      You've got me thinking again, Shannan! Thank you!

    3. Love this post, Shannan, and love both of the above quotes. Boy that Mother Teresa was really something, wasn't she ;)

    4. that mother teresa quote is amazing! i'm gonna have to write that down!

  2. what a beautiful and touching post - love this.

  3. I luv this post! esp this:

    Left to my own devices, I prove my foolishness in innumerable ways. I walk away from this wild love God knit and spoke and spilled and flung into the atmosphere like so much glitter.

    I luv the thot that His love is so abundant and plentiful that it gets in every nook and cranny. may I please steal it and post it on my facebook with a link to your post?

    1. I would love for you to share it! See those little social media icons right under the post? If you click the "share" button for FB it'll paste the link right onto your wall, and you can even say a few words or pull a quote out if you'd like. Thank you!

  4. You have such a gift & it's not just in the "doing", it's also in your words & reminding us here in your wonderful blog what it's all about. I know you're not perfect, nor is your life but that's what gives your words such power! Don't stop, you have no idea how important your words are.

  5. Beautiful. All of it. Hugs to you! :)

  6. It is impossible to put in to words how much I love that you all are new best friends! We are not always called to fix circumstances, but we can create a little warmth and safety that will long be remembered!

    And...I LOVE that quote in the first comment!!!!!

  7. beautiful and honest on your part too.

    having not been a reader of this blog for more than a year, where could i go to read about how Corey came to the decision to become a chaplain? seems like it was a pretty big life shift for y'all. if you haven't written about it, know that at least one wife would like to know how to encourage her husband in that kind of thinking.

  8. You make me want to be a better person...

  9. This so reminds me of my husband. He will befriend people from any walk of life and loves them all equally (most recently a man who was fresh out of prison.) There is a word for it: humility. :) Beautifully written; the words of your new friend make my heart ache!

  10. You are amazing people with such big hearts. You are making such a difference to so many. I love how you use your words in explaining your journey.

  11. A post like this is called..."Spurring one another on to love and good deeds." Your stories are spurs to me! In the very best of ways...

  12. Loved every word of this. The word "kin" takes on a whole new meaning to me after reading Boyles' book. Missing you.

  13. This is stirring up something in me. Thank you.

  14. Shannan,
    The summer caught up with me and I'm so way behind on reading your posts. I've kept trying to block out a chunk of time to read the last many in order - because, well, that's how they go, you know? Like if I MISS one then I'm missing the whole point. ( I know it's silly but that's how I roll.) Anyway, I'm reading through them and not commnenting cuz I'm on a mission...but, then I
    Stop. In. My. Tracks.
    I SO needed to read this today. The vulnerability of you. Of him.
    Of being "best friends" in 30 seconds.
    Thank you for sharing you life with us.
    God knew I needed to heat that today.

    ~ Dana