Wednesday, January 30, 2008

2007 - Realizations

As the first month of this new year draws to a close, I pause one more time to look back at the last year one more time, before closing the box of memories and consigning it to a dusty spot in my mental attic, to mingle pleasantly with the pungent aromas of years well lived.

Looking back on an entire year is monumental, if not breathtaking in its massive finality and entirety. It was hurricane of emotions, events, pleasures, tragedies, and above all, realizations. I've taken to the eccentric habit of given a summary to each of my years; an epitaph, if you will, of what the entire year could be summed up as.

For me, the year of two thousand and seven was the Year of Realizations.

When embarking out into the independent scene known collectively as the wide, wide world, a young person is assaulted with many new perceptions and realizations about what it truly means to be an adult. Not merely an adult in academic terms, but the complex facets of spiritual and mental adulthood as well. For me, when I graduated high school and went out to get a job, it all rushed at me. Every new thing was overwhelming. Some things were exciting, many things confusing, and an entire frontier of complex and intricate decisions arose, giving birth to others in their wake. Although I made decisions, coped with situations, and successfully navigated obstacles, I was not able to make sense out of it. Will it ever make sense? For as long as I live, I shall never know everything about life, and my part in God's plan for it, and this was my first and most important realization.

I was not wandering, clueless and undirected as to my course. I felt as if I was in a fog, racing headlong, searching for anchor points from which to spin a web of substantial construction, so that I could build myself stronger and more prepared for the next challenge. These realizations loomed suddenly like massive rocks in a fog, upon which I was dashed with ferocity. Distant and ill defined in the foggy expanse, they became solid and concrete. With blood on my face, I felt them, and having ascertained that they were indeed real, I began to pick my way carefully towards a distant light.

Life is not too short, life is insanely fragile. The knife of Eternity cuts deep in the mere blink of an eye, severing life on earth with a quick and burning flourish. The darkest day of the year was that phone call; that hollow, piercing phone call with its wretched sense of finality. On a dark and lonely highway, an entire car of some of my dearest friends lost their lives in a lashing storm of twisted metal and showers of broken glass. Their future in Heaven was sure, but the loss was the beginning of a train of thoughts that made me realize some very important truths.

The most important realization of the year was how I was impressed with the importance to live life to the fullest, glorifying God and enjoying Him forever. Simple things like your loved ones; family and friends, the wonderful and vast expanse of Creation, and serving others became very important to me, but I was not sure how important until I went on my second backpacking trip to Colorado.

This trip was taken with the same guys I had gone with my high school graduation year, with the addition of two other father and son groups. This was by far the best event and memory of the entire year, and a very difficult challenge physically. Spending so much time in God's vast creation, miles from any distraction, with only the sounds of nature and the company of your comrades in adventure, the rush of everyday life was exposed for all its evil. Every day is filled with deadlines, the clock is your enemy, you rush to complete miniature milestones in your career, and money increases it's hold and demand on you. Far from these distractions, lying under the stars, in the very palm of God atop the Continental Divide, I suddenly realized how foolishly I was directing my life. For what should happen if I could actually attain my financial and physical goals, but achieved them at the expense of family, love, and the simple pleasures and blessings of life?

There are no deadlines with God. All the deadlines and accomplishments that we invent to make us feel developed and successful are empty of any real meaning. It is one thing to be fiscally responsible, but another to base your life around physical status. Society pressures us to check off the boxes on the way, but have you ever stopped to ask yourself what we are on the way to? The hurried rush of a society, swimming desperately one way, calls for us to follow. Go to college, get a high-paying job, get married, have kids, buy your own house, get a retirement fund, send the kids to college, retire, buy an RV and list goes on and on. I admit that I too fell for the pitch of modern society. I had everything planned out. I'd get a degree and a good job, so that I could get a house and a substantial income to care for the wife I would marry and family I would raise. What if the job never comes? What if I run past true love on the way to the bank?

I have resolved that life is more than dollars and cents, bills and rents, and car payments. The only right way to live your life is before God with no regrets, while living for Him the best way that He directs you. I would far prefer to live in a small flat with my soul mate, facing the challenges of making our way, loving her and God, knowing that He will provide for us if we only follow Him, rather than have a nice house, and a perfect wife who is emotionally distant because I'm away on business trips most of the time.

If I could choose between a nice house and walking on the beach with the woman of my dreams, I'd choose the beach. If I could choose between a sports car and taking my kids to a state park, I'd choose the park. If I could choose status or honor before God, I'd choose to live before God, and follow the way He chooses.

The simple things in life matter more than gold and fame. A deep breath in the morning, a warm cup of tea, rain showers in June, bird watching on the Gulf Shore, or playing tag football with the youth group; these things are truly gifts from God. To rush over them in pursuit of riches would be a devastating loss in the end. The song Faust, Midas, and Myself, by Switchfoot, exemplifies this thought eloquently:

This one's about a dream
I had last night
How an old man tracked me home
And stepped inside
Put his foot inside the door
And gave a crooked smile
Something in his eyes
Something in his laugh
Something in his voice
That made my skin crawl off

Said I've seen you here before
I know your name
How you could have your pick
Of pretty things
You could have it all
Everything at once
Everything you've seen
Everything you'll need
Everything you've ever had in fantasies

You've one life
You've one life
One life left to lead
You have one life
You have one life
One life left to lead

I woke up from my dream
As a golden man
With a girl I've never seen
With Golden skin
I jumped up to my feet
She asked me what was wrong
I began to scream
I don't think this is me
Is this just a dream
Or really happening?

You've one life
You've one life
One life left to lead
You've one life
You've one life
One life left to lead

I looked outside the glass
At golden shores
Golden ships and masts
With golden cords
As my reflection passed
I hated what I saw
The Golden eyes were dead
A thought passed through my head
A heart that's made of gold can't really beat at all

I wanted to wake up again
I wanted to wake up again
Without a touch of gold
Without a touch of gold

What direction?
What direction?
What direction?
What direction?
What direction?
Life begins at the intersection
What direction?
What direction?
What direction now?

I woke up as before
But the gold was gone
My wife was at the door
With a night robe on
My heart beat once or twice
And life flooded my veins
Everything had changed
My lungs had found their voice
And what was once routine
Was now the perfect joy

You've one life
You've one life
One life left to lead

I have resolved to stop rushing, and start looking, listening, and serving. I want to pay better attention to what’s really important, and eliminate trivial distractions.

This coming year, I want to overcome my fears. I want to become more confident. I want to overcome my fear of heights, fear of swimming, fear of public speaking, fear of meeting new people, and any fears that hold me back from being the person I was meant to be. I want to have adventures, to explore new frontiers in every aspect of my life. I want to grow in the strength and knowledge of the Lord, and stand for the foundations of His Word.

I want to meet her. The one God has picked out for me. I may have already met her, or maybe it shall be years down the road. Whatever God's plan is, I pray that He would see fit not to let young love pass me by, and that He would direct my steps.

Tossed by a thousand waves, pinned to the rolling deck of my life, tasting blood and sea water, I was flung into a searing fire, burning until there was nothing left to hold on to but the Lord. The calm wind of certainty and confidence blew the smoke and ashes from the pit, revealing the smallest melted nugget of gold. Holding it close to my heart, I shall endeavor to start anew, and take my life to the place it should be.