Recently I’ve made a new friend. Let’s call him ‘Gary’ (not his real name, of course).
Our kids are in the same class, so we got to hang out together on a field trip last week. I’ve seen Gary many times before, we’ve made small-talk waiting for the school bell in the afternoons. But last week, he asked me to ride with him to an out-of-town field trip our kids went on.
On the surface, we have nothing in common really. Zip. Zero. Nada. Nothing except our love for music. As the product of a mother who’d married seven times, he’s lazily working on his third marriage, smokes a little dope now and then with his adult son, plays guitar in a band alongside another adult son, and has plans to go spend 14 days in jail at the end of the month rather than pay off his DUI charges via fines and community service. He’s a semi-retired mechanic, drag-racer and blues guitarist with hard-worn knuckles and an infectious laugh. His crooked smile rolls off f-bombs easier than Rosie O’Donnell ranting about handguns.
Underneath, however, we are desperately alike. Our 6-hour conversation was like flipping through late night television: parenting issues, marriage, religion, Carlos Mencia, politics, guitar amps, Heath Ledger, text messaging, and ‘that chick who plays Maya on Just Shoot Me’.
“Can we whip in Starbucks on our way back? I’m buying…” I asked.
“That’s cool…but I don’t want anything.”
Silence. (Imagine my disbelief!)
“That’s one vice I don’t have.” he said. “Dope, drinking, women, swearing…sure. But I just never got into coffee..”
“Well, you’re not dead yet…you still got time.” He laughed.
“You probably don’t even drink do you? I mean, have you ever done anything bad?”
So I began to share with him some more of my story. (He already knows I’m a ‘preacher’). In fact, I shared things with him I haven’t shared in a long time. Things I’m too ashamed to admit to here. Things that I’m still amazed are covered by Grace.
“Seriously? I would have never f’—in’ guessed. Geez. God, maybe there’s hope for me, too…”
Hope. It is the good news. That Hope has come. That restoration and redemption is coming and has now already come.
We talked on some more. I told him that Jesus is always ready to offer hope. That anything good in me wasn’t me, but Him. That anything fallen and jacked up in me (which is a lot) was the real me. Jesus is the Hope.
At 53, he’s seen enough hypocrisy to make him wary of Jesus Freaks. He’s been the victim of more than a few bait-and-switch gospel presentations. And he could use an honest, agenda-free friendship.
So could I.
He invited me to come hear his band play at Antone’s next week. He said that after the show, maybe we can hang out and talk some more about music, the blues, marriage, women, parenting, and Hope.
We’ve got a lot more in common than people in the school parking lot seem to think.