And so, it’s an interesting morning. I would dearly love to talk to my dad, maybe share breakfast and drive to the coast. That cannot happen, so perhaps it is a good time to share with the tens of readers here at Odd Man Out. Sometimes writing is a balm to my soul. Almost always the deeper thought required helps clarify my mind.
I face a ton of messy undefined reality today. Tonight I will finish the last requirements for seminary, and Friday I will graduate. I am fully employed in my chosen field at a wonderful church, full of fantastic people, and under an incredible leader. All the positive emotions associated with this type of rare alignment between desire and reality wash over me regularly. However, there is also something daunting about realizing that success and happiness now rest squarely on my shoulders.
School was so very safe. As ridiculous or egotistical as it may sound, seminary was a pleasant and rewarding walk in the park. It was finite, clearly defined, communicated in written form, and required me to use only my favorite gifts. I found nothing but transformational, relational, and academic success there. On the other hand, my historical world of work contains seasons of meaningful failure.
In the past I have been able to blame much of my failure to achieve on things outside of my control. My circumstances hamstrung my success. I was working to change them so I could excel. I am no longer waiting for my circumstances to improve and cannot blame any shortfall on my environment. In forty-eight years, I have never been here before, standing with all of the tools and opportunity I could ask for and facing a limitless horizon. It is a deeply different and very naked feeling. Do I have the desire, competency, vision, passion, strength, and endurance to move consistently forward? Only time will tell, but we start finding out tomorrow. So…that is a big deal but only part of why my morning is so weighty.
Also, my twenty year old son goes back to court today…again. Eli has made amazing strides, and several missteps since bottoming out around Halloween. However, March and April have been straight fantastic. Fired by the love of a fantastic woman (for the first time in his life there is actually something that matters to Eli, something he wants and is excited to work towards and sacrifice for) Eli is right on top of his game. Except…except he missed two court mandated random drug tests. I am no longer naive enough to completely discount the possibility that he missed those tests purposely to avoid detection. However, a resounding majority of the evidence points toward a more foundational issue. Eli consistently losses the battle to do the uninteresting or unpleasant things he needs to do regardless of the consequences. Doing drugs is no light matter, but it is truly just a symptom of this larger issue. That terrifies me. Just think of the implications. He faces up to twenty-five days of jail time. Not because he did not do the work to get clean, keep his job, maintain a relationship, pay back almost $5,000 of what he owes me and serve at church every single weekend, but because he could not get himself to successfully call the drug test hotline every day and listen to the recording carefully. How much failure looms in his life if that pattern holds? It is enough to make a parent cry. Huge mounds of potential that never get translated into anything but failure because the little things do not get done. Arrrgggghhhhh!
What do I do with these two incredibly messy, challenging chunks of reality on my plate this morning? Hang with me here. Try not to get distracted by the utter church cheesiness of this next statement – Cling to Jesus.
My identity is determined by who I am and who created me not by my past failure or future achievements. I love my own son in the same way for the same reasons. Our failures, missteps, productivity, and successes shape and humble us in a positive way to the extent that we relate them all to the abiding love and radical grace of The Father.
And so, that is where I end, clinging desperately and with total confidence to the hem of the robe of my personal Lord and savior, Jesus Christ.
“I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.” Psalm 139:14