Thursday, August 25, 2011

Insane, Unbelievable, or Authentic... you decide.

The purpose of life is not to be happy. 

It is to be useful, to be honorable, to be compassionate,

 to have it make some difference that you have lived and lived well.

~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

Hebrews 11

   Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.

I stepped into the hallway of the retirement home in Middletown Ohio. I remember the instant anxiety that gripped my chest. Ancient and bent people were staggering, hobbling, and rolling around as far as I could see. Their hair was crazed, they didn't look especially clean, they were mostly in pajamas although it was mid afternoon, and some of them were visibly shaking or drooling. 

It was mostly the sounds and smell that bothered me though. There was this deep covering of noise that was made up of murmurings, mutterings, coughs, cries and laughter. But one sound was shockingly clear above the chaos.

I turned and looked through the doorway. I think I just stood there... not knowing how to react, and unable to avert my gaze. There was a man who filled my heart with both empathy and terror. His bed was adjusted up so that he was in a reclined sitting position. Straps ran over his knees, over his arms that were pressed against his sides, and a final binding ran over his chest. His body had been restrained.

His spirit and his mouth had most certainly not. 

I learned quite a few words that day. I had not yet been introduced to the comedy of Chris Rock, and this man most likely was his mentor. He lunged up and down and back and forth, the spittle flying from his mouth. He was crying and snorting and cursing. Cursing the nurses, cursing his family, cursing the kid who was standing and staring at his doorway. I couldn't move.

I thought the day could not get stranger... and then it did. And now is when many of you will stop believing my tale, but I assure you... it happened precisely as I am about to tell you. That moment is burned into my mind.

My arm was grabbed, firmly. I was seized from my shock and quickly turned to see a tiny hackneyed lady with intense blue eyes with wild gray hair that stood out like she was touching one of those static balls that you see at novelty shops.

"Your name is Chad, isn't it." With a startled bark I said, "what?" Surely I had heard her wrong. I did not know this woman. I could not know this woman. I had never been here before. And she repeated it, "your name is Chad." This time it was a statement. She said it and she nodded with a serious expression.

I was speechless. My mind had been stunned. And then she continued...

God has placed a silver plate before you. 
He showed me in a dream. 
Some day you will learn what it is.

And with that, she released her grip from my arm, stared at me for a few more beats, and then folded her hands in her lap, lowered her head, and closed her eyes. I stood there looking at her in shock as the wild man continued to curse me and beat against his bed. I heard my name being called and looked up to see that the group I was with was exiting the wing. I quickly followed them out.

I was raised an only child. My grandfather was a pastor. There were many great expectations of me. I was taught to sing, to play the piano, I memorized scripture by chapter and verse. I was to grow up to be a preacher. I new that. I had been told that by my pop. 

I had on two occasions been grabbed and prayed over by pastors who I considered great men... giants in the faith. No less than three of them: Brother Mitchell, Clifford Hutchinson, and Charles Tarr. I was shocked and scared each time. Although this happened over the course of years... each was a very similar experience. Men towering over me in a public place, gripping me tightly with tears in their eyes as they prayed out loud that "God has his hand on this boy, and he will use him for great things."

There was always just one problem...

I didn't believe it. It sounded crazy. I had no desire to be a pastor. I didn't want to preach, and I didn't want to work in a church. So, surely... either all these people were mistaken, or God was simply wrong.

And still... I have lived with these memories in the back of mind: the wild-tufted antediluvian dinosaur in the rest home, the 3 pastors, and my grandfather... all convinced that God had a plan for me.  I was just an average kid though. And this was all too much.

That was all over 20 years ago.

I have driven a delivery truck, sold tools, sold shoes, telemarketed, brokered loans, manufactured window coverings, cleaned carpet, worked with the mentally ill, and sold groceries. I even briefly volunteered at a church while in college, helping with music and youth. But I was in over my head, and felt out of place. 

I have searched to find my place... always remembering these words in my head that were not true. And I have been so conflicted... because these were 4 men of integrity, and one little lady that gave me an impossible encounter.

I have no special skills, and while I have been successful at many things, I have never been a super-star at any of them. I always just find a way to get by, and to make it work. I have become very adaptable. But... never a great instrument of God. I find myself quietly saddened by this unfulfilled expectation.

I did not become the man they all believed me to be.

Nothing changed... until the day I stopped caring, and simply started doing. It ceased to be about expection. It no longer is about what others think. I simply have started following the pull of my eyes, ears, and heart.

I don't know what God has in store... and I still don't think he is right about me. But, I will no longer allow that to hold me back. If God does have a plan for me, then so be it. Until that day... I will pursue this life.

I want to be a better husband, a better father. I want to do the best I can do at my job as long as I have it. And I have begun pursuing my passion. This is why you have seen my writings on Guatemala. This is why Kellie and I will soon take a flight to China. 

We are done trying to meet expectations. We are desperate to chase the heart of God. And... we are beginning to find that he has been chasing us all along. So for now... I will walk by faith, even when my eyes can not see.

I know we want a life of meaning. I want to be useful, honorable, and compassionate. I want to live a life of lasting meaning. If I can do that... and die with nothing, then my life will have reached its potential.

Would I believe you when you would say
Your hand will guide my every way
Will I receive the words You say
Every moment of every day 

Help me to win my endless fears
You've been so faithful for all my years
With one breath You make me new
Your grace covers all I do 

Well I'm broken- but I still see Your face
Well You've spoken- pouring Your words of grace 

Well I will walk by faith
Even when I cannot see
well because this broken road
Prepares Your will for me 

We run toward a life of compassion, honor, use, and meaning.

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