Let Me In

http://4.bp.blogspot.com/-3oWovbpMkGY/UArtFhznmJI/AAAAAAAAFmQ/JLbGVoJn3sI/s1600/reaching+out+3.jpegLast month, I got a chance to catch up with a dear friend of mine who started and pastors a church in a middle-class suburb pretty far away from its core city.  He told me he struggles to really connect with the men in his congregation and community, because they are not wont to let down their guard.  While some of this is specific to his situation - people who live there like their privacy and social distance - some is endemic of us men.  It seems we're much more out of touch with our feelings and much less open to revealing those feelings to others, even trusted pastors.

It reminds me of a question a Penn student asked me once, when I returned to campus many moons after being a student myself to give a talk to an on-campus Christian group.  When I was in college, relationships were everything, and college was all about forming and cherishing them.  Conversations were deep and meaningful, often lasting into the wee hours, and highs and lows were shared with people we'd only known for a few weeks, but because of the dorm setting we felt like we were lifelong confidantes.

Fast forward to the present, and this Penn student asked me how it was possible for Christians to build such genuine friendships and exert such a strong influence when the contemporary culture left little room for actual human engagement.  It seems that in the 15+ years since I left campus, things had accelerated, and (at least at Penn, which is very pre-professional) everything was about cramming as many classes and activities into the day.  Human engagement, even and especially of the romantic kind, was relegated to shallow one-off encounters, and yet no one was tipped off that the resulting dissatisfaction signaled that this wasn't how people work.

My pastor friend's community and the Penn campus are vastly different places.  And yet both need Jesus, and both need Jesus followers to live out their faith, with all the attendant grace and love that should come with it  And yet, in both places, how to do that when no one seems to have the time or willingness to let anyone in?

My answer to the Penn student's question was similar to my pastor friend's solution: be available.  In the case of the Penn campus, I thought that if you could prove yourself faithful and available, invariably in four years life would happen and people would remember that you were someone they could confide in when they truly needed it.  And in the case of my pastor friend's community, he is going way out of his comfort zone to be where men let down their guard - on the golf course (he doesn't play golf) or at the bar (he doesn't drink).

All of that said and done, still sometimes we men won't open up.  But may we Christians continue to be available and patient.  For our God chased us down once with compassion and mercy, and we are forever changed for it.
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