Tuesday, December 21, 2004
Fishing for Pugs
He didn't have to do it. He could have sat in his ivory tower and let other beneath him handle the dirty-hands task of meeting strangers. He was, after all, the assistant pastor in function if not in name. Or something important like that. And yet, there he was, listed on the Web site. With his Email address.
Nate calls it "fishing for pugs." They had a plastic stick with a rope tied onto one end. Dangle the rope somewhere, or twitch it across the floor, and no matter where their pug puppy Winston is, he'll come running with his black flews flapping in the wind of his excited passage. In this case the outcome is certain: dangle a rope and you catch a pug. Dangle other things, such as an Email contact at a church known for creativity, and you might catch something truly weird. Like a tired sand sculptor.
Eric could have dismissed my stilted message. He might not even have opened it because my address is somewhat daunting. This has happened before. Instead, he sent me a breezy response, saying they'd welcome me and that I should look him up after the meeting.
His first look at the pug he'd attracted came when he found me sitting in a seat by the aisle, ready to bolt if things got too weird. He could have bolted then. Well, I tried to be civil. Must have succeeded because he didn't call in the bouncer to throw me back. "Sorry, buddy, your kind ain't allowed in here. You'll have to leave."
Actually, the whole outfit was surprisingly non-uniform. Eric himself was a one-man exercise in contrast: tough-guy bald head and goatee, but a face about as intimidating as a sated baby's, complete with beatific smile.
And then, having caught his pug, he could have turned me over to a closer or some such. Instead, he invited further contact. We had lunch together, and I continued the Email contact with the strange ideas I'd get. He served as my mentor in some interesting times, by not only not laughing at my outrageous ideas (by old standards) but by raising my bet and challenging me to take another step.
The importance of this is hard to state because you'd have to know a lot more about me in order to understand the contrast. I'd never had a mentor, never been treated as an equal by any high-powered spiritual types.
I rather doubt that even he had any idea of how he was affecting me. I tried not to show it. Old habit. Acknowledging things like this is their death knell, and I knew that if I lost the line I'd spin away into the dark and never come back.
It's easy to lose new followers of Jesus. They don't know anything, and if they get into the wrong hands they can easily be led astray. Why not? They don't know enough to correct for their teachers' deficiencies. Now, I had a bit more determination than the average newcomer, having already been through the production line, but Eric was a very helpful touchstone. Navigating alone is as hazardous as getting the wrong guide. Eric was mindful that God's land is wide, with much room for different kinds of people using the same truth, and he allowed me my style while helping me learn, through demonstration, how Jesus actually uses His rod and reel.
It's easy for a new follower of Jesus to become choked in rules and other weeds springing up around him. Well-meaning helpers tell them everything they need to be doing. Eric trusted the Holy Spirit to tell me what I needed to be doing, and he just accompanied me on the way and invited me to tell stories.
It's easy for a new follower to lose interest and quit growing as their roots run into the concrete underlying our secular society. Eric made living with Jesus seem so logical and fascinating that I couldn't help but keep walking even when I was thoroughly confused.
As you start, you shall go. The fact that I'm still here, and more or less growing, has a lot to do with Eric's real-world evangelic example. May every new follower of Jesus find someone like him to encourage and accompany them into the new land. Thank you, Eric.
2004 December 20
initiated (response to Wendy's blog comment) December 16 in another form
#2 in "Real World Evangelism"