Sunday, January 16, 2011

Reflections on my 41st Birthday

Today I turn 41 years old and I sit quietly on my couch in my new house in Nolensville, Tennessee. It is still hard to believe I live here and have not found a way to call it home. It’s not that there is so much that is wrong here, but rather so much that remains unfamiliar. Home is where the heart is, they say. I wonder though, how one decides where to locate a heart. I find my heart scattered in pieces or perhaps stretched across a nation of places I’ve lived. My heart is also located in the memories I have and sprinkled into the people I love. Those memories evolve over time as some are highlighted and some obscured. Those people move around and thus take a little piece of my heart to the mountains, to Europe, to Africa, and all over. I do not feel home here. I must make routine this geography. I must create and deepen relationships. I must create memories. Home, if this place will ever get a piece of my heart, must emerge in these ways.
For my whole life there has been this desire to arrive. I never do. I want to arrive at being grown up and mature, I want to arrive at happiness and satisfaction, I want to arrive at being smart, I want to arrive at a place of no loss, pain, fear, anxiety, I want to arrive at a place of certainty – I want to arrive at a life where no more effort and striving are required. And yet, four decades and a year of disappointment of one kind has provided other sorts of blessings I would not trade for anything. Everything good that has ever happened, happened on the way.
One thing I have learned is that my great desire to arrive is the desire of a fool. Life is not about one great arrival. Perhaps Heaven is some sort of great arrival, but even my hopes for Heaven being a place of arrival are now tarnished. I cannot believe that Heaven could be so great a place if it is the permanent end to things and a static eternity. Arriving means the end of something and the beginning of no change. Arriving means whatever is at this moment freezes and nothing else ever emerges. Change evaporates. In short, there is no other way to describe arrival than in death. I am not prepared to die. Although I have come to learn that the line between this life and the next may be thinner than previously believed, it still feels impenetrable. I cannot cross it for a few minutes to be with my father and the return.
Thus, I have intellectually come to the understanding that I will not arrive and that this lust for arrival is a foolish desire. However, I still feel this yearning inside for it. Perhaps someday I will come to learn a way to more fully embrace this journey I am on and not long so deeply for its end. Perhaps I can make an effort to imagine how desperately I would miss this journey were it to be over right now. Perhaps the journey would miss me, who knows?

I watch Sierra, now 12 and Canaan, now 10 growing and moving at rapid speed toward adulthood and try hard to keep up. If my life is moving fast, theirs is moving faster. I see them growing and changing in so many ways that it would be hard to record them. I have found that they each have a unique sense of humor that is growing more sophisticated and intellectual. I am pleased with this. Some people may see sense of humor as a secondary or peripheral attribute that may accent or augment something else in their life – a bonus. I see it differently. A sense of humor is about survival. How do humorless people make it through the hardest parts of life? To laugh by seeing the humor in life is one of the great expressions of humility. The ability to see oneself in context or to see the world as it is and then tell the truth of that reality is often hilarious and provokes laughter. Humor has a way of unraveling the lies we find ways to cuddle up in and get comfortable. I love that my children have a sense of humor. I hope they hone this skill the rest of their lives.

I am more in love with Gail than ever. It is a seasoning love that would have been impossible 14 years ago. This is a good trajectory to be on.

There is so much more to say, but I will end with this: I am so grateful for the life I am living. I know that so little of its goodness, if any, can be traced back to me efforts or how I in any way deserve it. I was situated well in life before being born and have had so much privilege training into my life since that these good things cannot be accredited to me. I do not deserve a life so good. I am grateful to have it. I give thanks to God. May I become better at giving this life away while I still have the choice to do so.