Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Look for the crazy.

The beignet is a marvel of culinary ingenuity. Many people have fried pastries before, but somehow the French came up with the greatest design (it feels weird to type those words). Fortunately, French immigrants brought this treat to the South, where, naturally, it was perfected. The beignet masters inject just the right amount of air into its delicate layers, giving it a unique consistency, not nearly as dense as a doughnut, yet with way more substance than a cream puff. This treasure is then liberally garnished with enough powdered sugar to make you think you've stumbled into a party at Charlie Sheen's house. They are one of the most delectable things I've ever tasted.

HoneyHoney rocking out
When my friend Peter declared his desire to consume a beignet, my pavlovian instincts kicked in and my mouth immediately began to water. My friend Sarah expressed her excitement in a different way, throwing her arms up with the excitement of a college coed who had just met her favorite music star and exclaiming "BEN-YAYS! YES!" The three votes had formed quorum, so there was no way around it - we had to acquire a dozen. The only problem was it was 1:30am on a Saturday night, and there was only one place to procure beignets, the French Quarter of New Orleans - more than a 7 hour drive from our current location in Atlanta. Fortunately, we found a 2 lbs. box of Goldfish crackers and 5 loaves of energy drinks in my pantry, and figured it was the perfect amount to feed us for 1,000 miles. With Peter behind the wheel, all 8 cylinders of Justin's car roared to life, and our journey began.

My friends are crazy. They do the kind of things society tells them are foolish. They take the bland picture of the American dream - mindless wealth acquisition and keeping up with the Joneses, and laugh in its face. They invite danger into their lives, and love with reckless abandon. I'm writing this from my bed, which is currently just a mattress on the floor because a few days ago Sarah called and said: "There's a family in need. They need a bed, so I offered them yours. Ronnie's bringing his truck to pick it up at 4pm." Unfazed, I responded "see you then," no questions were necessary. We give each other's stuff away - we're crazy. The idea of driving through the night after partying for 12 straight hours - tailgating, then cheering on the Atlanta Braves, then getting 2 friends in wheelchairs up an 80-year-old staircase because we couldn't stand the thought of not having them with us for HoneyHoney's electrifying concert - was crazy. Yet as we crossed the border into Alabama at 3am, we knew there was no turning back.
A gas station in Montgomery, AL at 4am

All night long, the car was filled with laughter and amazing conversation. Not only is everything funnier when you're sleep deprived, but it also seems like whatever nice shell you're used to wearing in public is also completely worn away, leading to nothing but refreshing candor in your discussions. We talked about what we'd like to get out of life, and we brainstormed ways we could love our friends more deeply and sacrificially. We shared with each other who we needed to advocate for, and we were honest about where we needed to spur each other on. The conversation was so rich that it made the time melt away, and before we knew it, we were pulling into Biloxi, Mississippi, as the sun rose ever so slightly.

Never in my life did I think I would have a debate with a hotel receptionist about which night I was checking in for, but in this surreal universe of crazy adventures, I found myself pleading with the graveyard shift manager at the Imperial Palace Hotel and Casino to give me the drastically lower Sunday rate. Surprisingly, she was immune to my charms and we ended up paying for the most expensive 3 hour nap in history. While Peter went straight to bed, the adrenaline coursing through our veins was too much for Sarah, Justin, and I to ignore, and we immediately proceeded to the casino. There we discovered two important things: 1) Yes, they do serve unlimited free beers at 6:30am, and 2) if you place really small bets, you can turn $20 into 3 hours of gambling fun. I never did make it into the bed we paid for.

A wide-awake Justin plays blackjack
By 9:30am, we were putting our minor diversion behind us and returning to our main mission of beignet acquisition. At 11:30am, we were sitting at Cafe Beignet, our stomachs gurgling with anticipation (or perhaps the sounds were the result of not sleeping and only eating Goldfish) as numerous plates of beignets were placed before us. As we bit into those delicious pastries and my red beard became invaded by powdered sugar, we knew the trip was worth it. Not because the beignets were that good, but because our time together was even richer. We simultaneously looked at each other, burst out laughing, and persuaded one of the passersby to take our photo. We were crazy, and we loved it.

When people tell me they're a follower of Jesus, I always look for the crazy. My friend Dylan spends all of his vacation time and money on helping street kids in Nicaragua get an education. My friends Stephen and Holly are passionate about being positive adult role models to kids in the community they're not even related to. Sarah is constantly tutoring and providing for kids who don't speak English in their home so that they can thrive in this country. Peter, Justin, Sarah, and I decided our friendship was worth driving all night for. My friends sacrifice their time, their resources, their comfort, and their security, voluntarily lowering the standard of living they could afford to have, all to live the kind of adventure that serves others and takes Jesus up on His offer to "have life, and have it to the full."

Beignets acquired!
When I don't see the crazy, it makes me wonder who people are following. A local pastor, family heritage, cultural traditions, a close friend, or even Oprah, perhaps? Whoever it is, it can't be Jesus. As many times as I look, I can never find a biblical basis for living a normal life. When I flip through the written accounts of Jesus's life, I find nothing but crazy. John lived on locusts and wild honey (Matthew 3), Peter and Andrew completely and immediately abandoned their source of income to spend more time with Jesus (Matthew 4:18-22), and Jesus commanded His followers to love their enemies and pray for those who persecuted them (Matthew 5:43-48). Those examples are only from 3 chapters - the exhaustive list is longer than the drive from Atlanta to New Orleans!

The crazy life is not easy. We get hurt when the people we strive to serve continue to make bad choices. We get burnt out when we're so focused on the adventure we forget to take a rest (leading to our own bad decisions). We're forced to deal with conflict, and can become jealous of those who seem to be content with sweeping it under the rug. We get frustrated with each other, but we forgive quickly and help pick each other up. We know the struggle is worth it. Give me crazy, or give me death.

What I'm Listening to During this Post:

No comments:

Post a Comment