"Can you walk out on your own story?"
Tomorrow is the first of many 49-year-old birthdays for me. Thankfully, the big 5-0 is a long way off.
Birthdays always get me, though. I like to "number my days, that I may apply my heart to wisdom" as the ancient Hebrew poet said. So, I was already feeling a bit pensive when this graffiti piece caught my attention yesterday.
How does someone walk out on their story exactly?
I am not sure, but the phrase resonates. There have been times I wanted to walk out on my story. I had grand visions of my future when I was in my pre-pubescent years. Someone told me that they think I will be a great man some day, and I believed them.
But it didn't exactly turn out that way. As a teen there were moments I wanted to quit the story I was in. I had moments of rage where I escaped to "the mountain" near our place. When I climbed that hill, I could see out over our town and the lake beyond. Mostly I remember the clouds and the swirling colors of the Canadian sunset as I spoke up into the void. Sometimes it felt like nothing was there, but sometimes I sensed a response.
If you are like me, sometimes you try to make sense of your life and track it on some sort of profit/loss grid hoping for an upward trajectory. Is there any progress? Am I "makin' it?" These days I notice when those younger than me start achieving things that are really something. I chuckled when I went to a clinic and the physician looked like he might still be in High School. Professionals are getting so young these days.
As I reflect tonight, it‘s funny how the truest thing about my story isn't something you can put on a spreadsheet or into a rubric. 49 years of life, and it seems like the most important thing I can say about myself now is that I heard a voice in the sunset in a remote part of Ontario. My life is pretty much a story about following that voice. It might sound strange or maybe a little mentally ill, but it‘s true.
There were times when I tried to have a better story than that. There were days when I tried to start an amazing youth center on the Hilltop in Ohio, or when I tried to reduce teen pregnancy in the Diocese of Columbus, or when I came to Brooklyn to make a difference, when I tried to create internships for 800 teens, when I tried to start a merchant's association, when I tried to improve the attendance rate at a high school that was ranked in the bottom 10 in NYC, or when I tried to reduce racism in Conservative Mennonite churches. I have tried to do a lot of things in my day.
But maybe we actually walk out on our story when we try to create a better one than the one we were given, when we try to do things instead of listening. When we try to build a tower to heaven like Babel instead of letting Heaven come to us.
That's not to say, it is not good to do good. I am glad I have tried to do stuff, but when I weigh everything I tried to do in the last 49 years and compare it to a single moment, it doesn’t add up. The moment I mean is the time that as a little 5 year old, something whispered my name when I was laying on the floor in a hot smelly van driving across the plains in the Summer of 1978; I pick that moment. That was the first time, when I told God I wanted to be his boy, and He heard me. That ironically is enough. How can something nearly bring me to tears, 44 years later? How can something so random define me for over 4 decades? I have no idea. Yet it has.
So, I guess if you were hoping for a dramatic mid-life crisis kind of blog post, there's nothing to see here, you can keep scrolling. All there is here is a little boy who heard someone good call his name.