A while back my friend Dave asked me to read and blog about book called mY Generation by a friend of his named Josh Riebock. Being a bit of a book addict, I happily agreed and put it very, very near the top of the stack of books I have waiting to be read. I read a LOT - for work and pleasure - so the stack is rather tall.
Originally my plan was to read the whole book and then blog about what I thought, overall, as a book review. I'm going to discard that idea.
You see, I started reading mY Generation and realize that this isn't a book one reads and analyzes. This is the sort of book that is story, which means that it's to be experienced and processed over time. All of this from having read two chapters.
Here, I'll show you what I mean...
It was Thursday evening around five o'clock, and I was in the parking lot of T.G.I.Friday's. That's that restaurant with the candy-striped awning, the sesame jack chicken strips, and the wait staff that wears pieces of flair. Justin pulled in a few seconds later in a small black car. But before that, it was Wednesday and I was at a bar, and a church service.
It sounds confusing, but it's not. It was a church service being held in a bar. That's where Justin and I met.
He's a filmmaker and has cool tattos, so I was drawn to him pretty quickly, even if it was for superficial reasons. We hit it off, and after a brief conversation, decided to get together the following week, but that stirred all kinds of anxiety in me.
I'm not an overly social person to begin with, but I find the maiden voyage of hanging out with someone, anyone, borderline insufferable. The chances of me feeling and acting both distant and awkward are very good. To avoid the slightest dash of silence, I usually talk too much, often rambling about topics of no particular significance, and I can carry on that way for months.
That's part of why it takes me so long to make lasting friendships, because I resist intimacy like the plague. I distance myself. I push people away. I keep things impersonal, which, sadly, is the way I like it.
On the Monday following the church service, my pone rang.
"Yeah," I said.
"Hey man, it's Justin."
"Oh, hey, bro." (I always call people bro when I'm uncomfortable.)
"What's going on? What are you doing?" he asked.
"Nothing much, bro" (see, I did it again right there), "what about you?"
"Not too much. I was just calling to see if you could hang out sometime this week."
My chest tightened immediately. I guess I was hoping that he was merely being polite, saying that we would get together, but obviously he wasn't. Obviously, he meant it. Wanting out time together to be as nonthreatening as possible, I said, "Yeah. That'd be great. You want to grab a beer or something?"
That seemed safe enough. Lots of people. Plenty of noise. We could even sit on stools facing a wall instead of each other. What could possibly be safer than that? It seemed great, but Justin extinguished that idea.
"No, let's not do that. I'll tell you what, Josh. Don't worry about it. I'll take care of everything. Does Thursday, like around five, work for you?"
"Uh, yeah, bro," I said.
"Okay, well, let's plan on Thursday at around five o'clock. You just meet me at the T.G.I.Friday's parking lot and I"ll take care of the rest...And Josh," Justin continued, "make sure you wear a rugged pair of shoes and a pair of shorts that you don't mind getting dirty."
I hung up the phone, reflected on one of the strangest conversations I'd ever had, and pretty much became a wreck.
What have I gotten myself into? Why does this weirdo want me to wear rugged shoes? Where the heck is he taking me? Maybe I'm going to be hunted for sport.
Oh God! It's like that movie Deliverance! I think I hear that eerie banjo music now...
Maybe his name isn't even Justin...
Yeah, I was a wreck. Confused. Curious. A little freaked out. Paranoid. Bearing a deep sense of regret that I'd answered my phone at all. A wreck. And I was that way for the next few days, but I still went, and that's how I ended up in the T.G.I.Friday's parking lot on that Thursday.
I stood next to my car, shifting my weight back and forth, and biting my nails practically down to the bone. Then Justin pulled into the parking lot. I opened the passenger-side door of his small black car, sat down, fastened my seat belt, and he began driving.
"So, where are we going?" I asked.
"You'll see," Justin said with a sly smile.
"This is really killing you, isn't it? Ha, that's great."
Eventually, we moved out onto a stretch of scenic highway and, shortly after, Justin pulled into a lot at the base of a range of rocky cliffs, overlooking a lake.
"We're here," he said. "Come on."
He shut off the engine and got out of the car. I went with him as we walked toward a small hiking trail. Over the next fifteen minutes or so, we stepped up the side of the cliff, over stones and through the trees, finally settling at a lookout point with miles of visibility in either direction.
"I figured I could have a beer with anyone," Justin said between heavy breaths. "But, and I hope this isn't weird, I really want to get to know you, to talk to you about deeper stuff, to hear what's really going on in your heart. I guess I really want to be friends, and I think this is a great place to do that."
I didn't know what to say. I was caught off guard, and apprehensive too, and yet, I was incredibly moved. I couldn't think of another time in my life when anyone had done that for me, when I mattered more to someone than what was considered normal, when someone was willing to ignore what I was comfortable with, in order to really love me. It was one of the most loving things anyone's ever done for me.
I guess you could say that what Justin did for me reminded me of what Jesus did for so many others -- he refused to let expectations and what was considered normal get in the way of love.
"Thanks a lot, man. I'd really like that," I said.
I won't soon forget the hours that Justin and I spent on that cliff, talking about our wives, our childhoods, and God. Today, Justin is so much more than an acquaintance to me; he's a great friend, a friend of depth and intimacy, and that occasion started it all.
Do you see what I mean? This story powerfully hit some deep places in my heart.
How many times have you wanted to be brave like Justin, to just push past all the barriers that someone erects and get to know the real person?
How many times have you wanted to be chosen like Josh, to have someone disregard all the niceties in order to truly know you?
I know I've wanted to be both. I know I still do.
Consider this to be my first installment on mY Generation...