Wednesday, November 26, 2014

I Hugged Bob Goff at Jail

Now and then, I read a book that snakes in and changes the fabric of my heart. After that, I tell everyone (EVERYONE) to read it. Sometimes I'm inspired to conduct impromptu readings full of social awkwardness.

I'm a big book bosser. If you talk to me for more than 15 minutes (I'm allergic to small talk and prefer to get straight down to business,) I will end up asking, "Have you read ________? Because you need to."

I don't even say, "You might want to." I say "need," as in, I'm your high school English teacher or your supervisor at work or RoboCop.

I love being changed by a book, and when it happens for me, I'm sure it will also happen to you.

That's how it was with Love Does, by Bob Goff.

I'd heard about it for a while, and I read Donald Miller's A Million Miles in a Thousand Years, where he talks a lot about Bob. But when it first came out and I saw all the hype, I was reluctant. I'm afflicted with a strange rebellion which causes me to lose interest or feign indifference when something becomes a big trend. (Exhibits A-D: The Purpose Driven Life, The Shack, The Hunger Games, technology.) Also, I made a wrong and stupid assumption that Love Does was a fluffy, feel-good book. 

Um, wrong.
It's relatable, funny, engaging, and easily applied to a personal experience. It's also packed with meaty, chew-all-day truth.

I devoured it in that unique, "I can't stop reading/I want to slow down because I don't want it to end" sort of way. Then I bossed Cory to read it, adding, "You need to read this with the jailbirds."

Note: I call guys in jail "jailbirds". Don't be offended. The alternative is "inmates", which makes them sound too much like criminals (it's complicated). 

Long story longer, Cory read the book, and took it into the jail, where he gathered up a group of men with the following pre-qualifications: 1) You have to be a reader and 2) You have to be ready to discuss.

And then all Heaven broke loose. The guys talked. Some got emotional. One shared the following epiphany, "The Devil is a tricky bastard."

I mean, I can't argue with that.

Since Bob famously printed his cell phone number in the back of the book, we decided to call and invite him to the book club. Alas, the mailbox was full. So Cory, being all kinds of social media savvy (no) "tweeted out a post" to Bob. But, you know, Bob is a busy guy with a fairly robust schedule and that was the end of that.

A couple months later, I tweeted a picture of Cory and the Love Does book club.

5 minutes later, BOB GOFF RETWEETED ME.

This is basically a miracle. So since we were already standing at a parted sea, we doubled down and invited him to visit the jail - #bobgoffgoestojail.

And since he's Bob Goff, he immediately responded, "Let's do it! Email me!"

At this point, I RAN upstairs to call Cory, only to see that I'd missed roughly 28 calls from him after he discovered Bob had sent him the exact same tweet...TWO MONTHS EARLIER.

Hey, Cory. Hey. When you "tweet out" a personal invitation to a celebrity, you might want to check your account to see if they "tweeted you out" back.

Bob was coming to the jail.
Love Does!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

And then a couple weeks later he wasn't coming to the jail, and Love Doesn't. (We got lots of mileage around here with that one, even though we secretly totally understood and it was an honor to just be nominated.)

Taking a page from my playbook, Cory did not relent. He offered back an "open invitation" and all the 'birds wrote Bob letters telling him how God was using his book to show them, some for the first time ever, what the love of God and following Jesus really looks like.

Finding it all irresistible or perhaps just finding a break in his schedule, LOVE DID.

I waited out in my van like a total creeper and met him as he was leaving, then I got my picture with him and I don't even care that I have a double chin and a mysterious black speck on my tooth.

From there, Bob and I both drove (separately, dang it) to Chicago for the Storyline conference, where he shared a picture of his time at the jail. You know I cried.

Do you think we can ever get our faces off ourselves enough to really love the people around us? Do we believe God wants us to actually do right things for the people around us, not just read our Bibles and mind our own bee's wax?

God reveals Himself through other people. Through us. 
This is the miracle of the manger.

Jesus came and grew and spent his free time eating with crooks and whores and murderers and thieves. He palled around with the poor - finding commonality with them because he was one of them. He chose to give what He had. He refused to store up earthly treasure, understanding it was all just rust and ash. He loved people. And he RoboCopped us to do the same. That's our J.O.B., to love the people around us as much as we love ourselves.

God is God and I am not. And even though I occasionally find myself thinking, "What would Bob do?", he isn't God, either.

But God's love fuels Bob's life. It caused him to hop in a rental car and drive hundreds of miles to spend 45 minutes hugging criminals and promising them the kingdom of Heaven belongs to them.

I want to live inside that heartbeat.

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving and it's my job and yours to make sure we're loving others as much as we're loving ourselves. We're slinking towards the Most Trickyful Time of the Year, when it's so easy to get wrapped up in the hype that we risk missing the entire point.

Most of the guys in the photo above will be spending their holidays eating a single tray of crap food and sleeping as much as possible so they can forget about the life they're stuck in. Yes, they're in the grip of justice, but isn't that a terrifying thought? What would our holidays look like if justice wrote our script?

Let's love more.
Let's love bigger and rowdier.
Let's extend foolish grace and walk in the grace we were given.

Happy Thanksgiving, favorite homies.

ps - Buy this book for someone this Christmas. You NEED to.

* amazon affiliate linkage