I was sick for a couple days last week. My lungs had dancing fire ants. The blessing of the illness was the downtime to read Bo's Cafe. I highly recommend it.
Bo's Cafe stars Steven, a highly successful thirty-something whose marriage is falling apart due to his toxic anger. In the beginning Steven is pretty clueless about the depth of his struggle and the deep impact it has on others. Enter Andy, a Hawaiin shirt wearing Electra convertible driving cigar smoking agent of grace. At first Steven thinks Andy must have dropped out of the Twilight Zone. Doodoodoodoodoodoodoodoodoo.
Andy shares in a way that Steven just can't get. Steven wants somebody to tell him what to do to fix his marriage. Andy has a vision of who Steven really is that is way beyond that. Andy's words to Steven seem mysterious and woefully inadequate to address the problems in his marriage and at work.
Though Steven barely trusts Andy there is something about Andy that he finds himself leaning in Andy's direction. Eventually, Andy takes Steven to Bo's, a restaurant near the beach featuring a cast of characters seemingly out of the original Star Wars bar scene. The original being Episode 4, but I digress.
At Bo's Steven meets Carlos. Carlos is a pastor who used to lead a large 'successful' church. One day he realized his part in it was almost all fraud. It was a game, an act. He got sick of his inauthenticity. Andy helped him find his way to a deeper self.
As Steven tries to figure out Bo's Carlos shares this:
Andy was the first dude I ever met that had more confidence in the grace of God than in the power of the crap I was dragging around.
Oh yeah. Get your head around that one amigo. It'll set you free. Steven, most people want to fix stuff in someone so they don't keep embarrassing them no more...
See, man, we want others to think we've got it all together, like we don't need a handout. So we stack the deck, we bluff, we cover up the stuff we don't like about ourselves. We make ourselves a nice little mask. And then we hide behind it. It's who we wish we could be, who we wish others thought we were. What a joke, huh?
Carlos lays out how we all construct false selves in our lives. Only most people never discover they are party to this elablorate life sucking charade. Though Steven's symptom is anger his real problem is living out of this false self. In that sense anyone will benefit from reading this not just someone who struggles with anger.
Later in the story Steven listens to Andy define the type of person who can help take a look through the crud on the outside and into the dignity and depravity on the inside.
I don't want any pretend superiority. I can't hide well enough to pull that off, even if you want me to. I don't want to intimidate you. I want to be someone who is vulnerable and authentic. That's the only ace I carry up my sleeve. I'm learning the power of love to heal me. I am trusting Him with me. No other cards, no other sleeves. No other nothing.
Then as Andy shares how much he enjoyed hanging out with Steven earlier, Steven freaks. He lies about another call coming in where there is none. After he hangs up he faces some truth.
I am a liar. A liar who will avoid vulnerability at any cost.
The magic of Bo's is the grace full community. There is much joking and teasing but always open and honest conversations where the regulars feel the freedom to listen to anyone's conversations or twenty or twenty-five of them may be participating.
Carlos again to Steven about Bo's being a safe place.
See, man, if safe is just nice and sweet, where everybody's smiling at you and nobody's ever dealing with nothing, that's not safe. That's a retirement home. I like nice...But nice ain't enough for safe. A safe place isn't a soft place.
Safe is a place where you can get out the worst about you and they don't run you off, talk you down, or head for the hills. It's having someone to stand with when you start to face the shameful stuff, man. It's where you can be a jerk and still have a place at the table the next day...where you don't have to hide or fake or pretend or bluff. Safe is being loved more for revealing your crap, not less.
That's safe. It's beautiful and wonderful and messy and sloppy and glorious. May you be a fortunate one who has a safe place to be just where you are, who you are with those who love you but don't just give you a free pass.
Bo's Cafe will help any man or woman on this life journey. It can be especially helpful post affair explosion time as a couple emerges from the rubble trying to figure out how they ever got to be in their chaos.