Monday, November 28, 2005

Alice's Restaurant

Many years ago, a good friend of mine got really sick and tired of the "corporate sellout" of what was on the radio in those days (disco, mainly), and found solace in the protest music of the 1960's. Finding teenaged hippies in the early 80's was interesting in and of itself, but what was impressive about Gord (my friend), was that he memorized, in its 25-minute entirety, "Alice's Restaurant Massacree", originally by Arlo Guthrie.

Gord and I first met at a youth/young adults retreat at what would now be labelled a "liberal" Presbyterian church, which also included a lot of the burgeoning New Age emphasis of contacting the Divine resident in each of us, etc. Just a few months after I'd finished high school, I had moved back to the town I'd grown up in for college. While there, I had a lot of friends whom I was trying to share my faith with, and they would often say "hey, we are Christians -- we went on that retreat at the Presby. If you'd go, you'd understand."

So, getting tired of this "talk to the hand" response, I went.

And that's where I met Gord. We hit it off almost immediately, and hung out for most of the weekend. A lot of the teaching material seemed to be based on "if you have an emotional reaction to anything during this sleep-deprivation experiment, it's the Spirit of Christ that is in all of us", but since I already did have the Spirit of Jesus in me, I probably got more out of the retreat than most. At least, about six months later, fellow retreaters would ask me "how come we've lost the 'retreat feeling' and you haven't" -- can you say "open door" to sharing my story?

Late Saturday night, Gord came over to my bunk and whispered "I can't sleep. You wanna go to the chapel and talk?" I had been thinking the very same thing, so Gord and I spent from about midnight until 7:30 AM in the chapel, burning candles, hunched over my tattered paperback Bible, and talking about God.

Gord believed that Adam and Eve had been planted on earth by wise and benevolent aliens; he was really into reading peoples' "aura's", and commented that he knew I was a "Jesus Freak" when he first saw me: "All you Jesus Freaks have the same golden glow about you." We talked literally for hours about my own spiritual journey, his journey, and trying to figure out various Bible passages together.

Long after the retreat, there would be "theology pub" nights -- except it was at Tim Hortons because (A) Starbucks didn't exist in Canada at the time, and (B) most of the group was too young to get into a pub -- where I would be one of two Christians present while many topics were discussed. One of my favourite Bible passages at that time was the Parable of the Sower, because that was where I was living on a regular basis.

When I left for Bible college the following fall, Gord was one of the people who took up a collection among our friends, and bought me a leather-bound King James Bible as a going-away gift ("You seriously need a new Bible, dude..."), which they gave to me at the surprise going-away party that they threw for me.

I learned a lot from Gord; we had great talks, and I learned very quickly that if I showed him the common decency and respect that friends share, he would listen to my story as well. I had "divine moments" of being able to share my faith with him, and learned an equally important lesson from the Parable of the Sower: we sow, but we are not the Seed.