Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Catch and Release: do we mean it when we say 'friend'?

Last Thursday, Charlie and I walked around the block and met a few people, then circled back around to a large group of young guys we'd seen earlier. I hadn't seen some of them in a long time, but had thought of them often and was anxious to say hi.

"You guys are still coming out here?" 'Rick' (who'd been gone for about 3 months) asked.
"Of course!" I responded "We've been coming for 5 years. And we're going to keep coming."
"Why?" he asked.

I said something inconsequential, and then Charlie answered: "We have friends out here."
"Friends?" he responded in a negative, skeptical tone. "Friends call each other, friends hang out. They don't just come up once a week..."

That reaction has stayed in my mind throughout the week. Now, in this instance, it actually turned out fairly well because in fact, I had tried calling and emailing him a few months ago when he'd showed interest in going to church. I had driven up to Hollywood to pick him up, only to be stood up. And I reminded him of this. So he kind of laughed it off and it smoothed out the conversation and we were able to continue on finding out where he'd been and what he'd been up to. And invited him to another hang out we have coming up this weekend.

Now, I do keep in mind that even if we all lived in Hollywood and were there all the time, there are a lot of walls. People don't want to be our friends. They don't want to share their lives or trust people or be open. So even if I called him everyday, he might ignore me. But I think that God requires us to keep trying, keep loving...and often times do so without result. More often, there will be a result of a relationship, but it takes time. We have to keep pursuing - just as He does us - keep caring about them, keep investing, even if we never get much in return. Because they see our efforts and consistency and recognize it. Even if they don't respond, they're aware (this applies across the board wherever we are, not just in this particular ministry).
But how many other people think what 'Rick' vocalized? Obviously, we care about relationship. That's why we're there...that's why Antquan moved to Hollywood, and why others of us hope to. We know real relationship - not just drive-by evangelism - is critical for sharing Christ. Especially in this neighborhood of darkness, skeptics and distrusting individuals. If we can't share our lives, they won't ever be able to see the gospel fully lived out as well as discussed with us (although hopefully God would put someone else in their path to do so!)
Though we know the importance, it doesn't mean we always act on it. We spend the majority of our time in Orange County, only giving them a few hours each week. Our hearts are in the right place...but if they don't know that, it loses a lot of importance (again, not specific to Broken Hearts).

I also spent time in the last few days thinking about the influence that our true friends from the street have on those whom we are trying to befriend. They have influence because they're there, they share their lives, they see each other around and know that, at least to some extent, they can trust and listen to each other. When we actually befriend someone and they hang out with us and trust us, others are much more willing to do so as well. And ideally, our hope is that those we help get off the street, get through rehab, give their lives to Jesus, etc, will then be able to go back and inspire others to do the same while sharing the grace and truth of the gospel just as we strive to do. But we actually have to be friends with people for this to occur. Not make them a project, not see them as a mission to accomplish, but actually love them, pour into their lives, and let them pour into ours as they choose.

As I was reading a book today with these thoughts far from my mind, I was struck as I read a page and realized it perfectly captured this idea. It's a true story called Same Kind of Different as Me that, up to the point that I've read, is about a couple who began serving meals at a mission and took an interest in those they interacted with. The husband is trying to befriend one of the coldest, toughest people they know. And after expressing that he desires friendship with the man (because his wife wants them to be friends), the man (Denver) responds this way:

"I heard that when white folks go fishin they do somethin called 'catch and release."..."That really bothers me," Denver went on. "I just can't figure it out. 'Cause when colored folks go fishin, we really proud of what we catch, and we take it and show it off to everybody that'll look. Then we eat what we other words, we use it to sustain us. So it really bothers me that white folks would go to all that trouble to catch a fish, then when they done caught it, just throw it back in the water...
..."So, Mr. Ron, it occurred to me: if you is fishin for a friend you just gon' catch and release, then I ain't got no desire to be your friend....But if you is looking for a real friend, then I'll be one. Forever."

When we walk out on the streets of Hollywood and tell people we want to be friends, or when you go into your workplace or neighbors home or mission to serve food and say that you want friendship in order to share the we think about what that means? Can we introduce our 'friends' to everybody that we know and use our relationship to sustain each other? Are we ready for 'forever'? Because if not - if we don't have that real love - aren't we just resounding gongs or clanging symbols?

This is something I have to catch myself on a lot, and will continue to do even more now, so I'm not saying I have this down. Hopefully others will read these thoughts and we can walk through this Jesus thing together, gathering up friends as we go...

1 comment:

Rachel Ann said...

First of all, I LOVE "Same Kind of Different as Me" - brilliant book. Second, I, too, have been thinking about this because of all the time we spent up in Hollywood this past weekend. I was thinking that friendships with some of the guys out there have become true friendships, but they require more sacrifice. Like, it will always be us going up to Hollywood and us paying for things until they are more established and on their feet. But we need to give our hearts to them as much as we want theirs. I think a lot of the walls could come from "our" side. At least, I see this within myself. In the past I viewed all people as projects that needed love and acceptance, but in seeing them as projects I wasn't giving love and acceptance, I was just patronizing. We want to give our true hearts and count them as important in our lives as our other friends. It needs to be a two-way street.