Wednesday, August 02, 2017

Reflections on the start of a new year

August, tomorrow is my birthday. I will be turning 32. I am married with a child on the way. I'm losing my hair and gainfully employed. I have degrees and certifications and job experience. I'm an adult. But, at the same time, I still love to play with Legos and have a pretty impressive Star Wars toy collection. I've got plans for the future and history to reflect on. I've got a good idea of what my limitations are and what people think of me. I've seen the world for what it is, and I've decided to be one of the good guys, as best as I can understand it. I try to remember what I would have expected from myself at this age when I was 17. I think I imagined that I would be successful, as far as I could have understood success at the time. Atlanta was never on my radar. It still isn't, really. I probably expected that I would have beaten my addictions by now, and that I'd be writing books or making speeches about one thing or another. But, here I am: average in most ways, clinging on to some false narrative that I'm Daniel Boone or Kit Carson; an explorer that knows no fear and strikes out on his own in search of adventure, to put his name on things. There was this tradition when I was working at a camp in Colorado. Every Tuesday, the staff cooked made-to-order pancakes right in the dining room. I remember putting in a fair amount of effort into getting the staff to name a particular mix of pancake batter with strawberries and white-chocolate chips "The Mondo." It never caught on.
But age is a funny thing. We live in a time when adulthood doesn't exist like it used to. My generation cling to our childhood desperately. We're afraid to let go, to grow up. Growing up is a curse, it's boredom, it's insignificance. We thought we saw these traits in our parents and we want nothing to do with such characteristics. So we cling to the past, when our expectations for the future were lofty, to say the least, if not impossible. I still imagine that I will live a life of adventure and excitement, not submitting to the reality that my adventurous days are behind me. Now, I settle in. I raise my children and provide for my family and learn to love my wife more and more. I give up on the dreams and aspirations that I was never capable of in the first place. I fade.
It sounds hopeless, but I don't feel hopeless. I don't feel despair. I'm optimistic, I see a new world, a reality that is more true than the lies I believed when I was 17. There is good to be done, there is a world of hurt surrounding me that I can speak into. There are refugees that need community. There is family that I can soak in love and mutual experience. I have students that need a man to admire and respect. I have a system in which I work that is broken, and I can fight for justice within that context. There is a God that swirls in and through the corners of my being, making life worth living. I can chase that. I can swim in the potential that his plan whispers, anxious for the coming about of something better, of life that is more full than the one I currently experience. Jesus has reached out to me and invited me into a better story. And though I'm terrible at taking whatever step is required of me, the invitation persists. I want to learn how to accept it.