It's been a while since I've posted on any of my blogs. I miss writing. Miss it very much. But I am so busy with school, and with my business, and trying to make a living and rebuild a life...something has to give and unfortunately it's the thing I probably love most...creating with the written word.
But here I am...it's been a most unusual day and I felt the tug of creativity and soul-bearing rising up inside me. God is...if anything...the greatest of laundry agitators.
Rich Mullins, (whose songs I quote more than anyone else except maybe my friend Rick Elias'), once wrote a song titled "Calling out Your Name". There is a wonderful line that says;
From the place where morning gathers
You can look sometimes forever 'til you see
What time may never know
What time may never know
How the Lord takes by its corners this old world
And shakes us forward and shakes us free
To run wild with the hope
To run wild with the hope
The hope that this thirst will not last long
That it will soon drown in the song
Not sung in vain
And I feel thunder in the sky
I see the sky about to rain
And I hear the prairies calling out Your name
There is one line in this song that is my anthem today and tonight and will be for the week ahead I suppose...maybe longer. It simply says; "How the Lord takes by its corners this old world And shakes us forward and shakes us free..."
He does...He has...He continues to do so.
This week has been a torrent of his shaking me at my foundation. I could write a lot about what He has been up to, but I think I need to make this article more generic...more universal.
Who amongst us isn't caught up in inner turmoil sometimes? Who doesn't look at the content of our lives lived until this very moment and wonder about it's value...it's effectiveness...it's lasting impression and legacy? Who doesn't want more and better?
I wish I could examine my life until today and simply yawn and say "Yep...so far so good" but I cannot. As I write these words, tears form because I am listening to another of Rich's songs- "Hard to Get"- sung by my dear friend Rick Elias on the posthumously released "Jesus Record" that Rich was working on when he died and that his closest friends "The Ragamuffins" released as a tribute / closure a few years later. The line Rick just sang was "I'm reeling from these voices that keep ringing in my ears...all the words of shame and doubt, blame and regret..."
That is me tonight...I am there...right there. I'm reeling. Reeling from the losses of homelessness and failure and defeat. Reeling from the collapse of an entire industry that I thought would carry me into my retirement. Reeling at the loss of a house that I considered my home...my little 5 acre slice of heaven. Reeling from watching my little girl go from 10 year-old girl to 13 year old almost-adult without being able to spend the night with her daddy because for 3 1/2 years this economy has made it impossible for me to find a 2 bedroom apartment and rebuild our time together. I am reeling.
I am reeling from the loss of one of the two men I consider to be true father figures...Poppa John went to heaven in January and the hole he leaves is huge and palpable and I am empty because of it. I wish I could hear that distinct northern Virginia draw and silly laugh. I wish I could ask him just a few more questions.
I'm reeling because I have drifted...probably because of the pull of the hardship of these last few years...from the man I was to the man I am. Ask anyone who knew me as a kid or as a young adult or right up until I got married and then divorced. They'd tell you I was the funniest, most easy-going guy you'd ever meet. I'd choose to laugh first before I'd argue with you. In fact I was known for disarming a situation by making the other person laugh. That was me...me before I was reeling.
"reeling from these voices that keep ringing in my ears...all the words of shame and doubt blame and regret..."
I feel a ton of shame. Daddies don't lose their homes. Daddies don't sleep in cars, or basements, or rent single rooms that render it impossible for overnight stays with their daughters. Daddies don't fail. But I have done all that and sometimes the shame is overwhelming. I can joke about it. I turn it into a funny story about hiding my car in the weeds or a heartwarming story about hearing Harry Kalas' voice coming from my radio when the Phils won the Series in '08. I can try to wash it and clean it and spin it and be inspiring to others...and I have done that. But the truth is it still is embarrassing and sometimes I still feel ashamed. I doubt. I doubt sometimes that I'll ever be back on my feet. I doubt that I'll ever tuck my daughter in again under my own roof. I doubt my ability and my strength and my resolve. I blame myself. I blame the man who owned the company I once worked for who ran it into the ground with vice and excess and flaunting of the rules. I am broke and broken and he will probably pay a fine...not from his own personal funds...and walk away into the twilight years of his life. I blame myself for not seeing this coming somehow. Because dads are wise and they take precautions. Even though I know the economy was a lot more intricate than just my little piece of it. But I am intelligent and broad shouldered and darnit I should have known. I am reeling with regret. I regret the years I've lost with my precious little girl. I regret losing our pets and our home and our time together.
More than anything I regret the loss of the man I used to be. Before the pressures of adulthood and career and loss and embarrassment and failure and relentless hopelessness took their toll. The guy who made everyone else laugh and who did so because he was truly, deeply, happy and funny at his very core.The guy who came up with the name "Doe, Fluffy, L." for the "toe tag" on his Cat specimen in Anatomy and Physiology lab. The guy who once had Dr. Falwell booming in laughter with his commentary / jibes at the opposition during a hard fought battle against N.C. State. The guy who wept when his daughter was born and told her about 1000 times during her first 3 hours that her daddy loved her. Those were the only words I could form and the only phrase I wanted to say.
The years haven't been kind. Not entirely. But God is good.
This week...today especially...God was shaking me forward and free. Maybe to run wild with some new found hope again after 3 plus years of desert. I sure hope so. I miss the guy I was and lament that I likely will never be exactly that man again.
But I rejoice that God refused to just "leave me alone!" when I demanded He do so.
I am thankful that He never left me nor forsook me even when I thought he had...even when I told Him to.
I tried...God knows I tried to run Him off. I have had my moments of bile-spitting and angry screaming matches with The Almighty. He has always seemed to endure my tirades and then whisper; "I know...I know it hurts. I'm here..." Sometimes I hated Him for that. Why was He so patient? Why couldn't He have just sent a bolt of lightning, or a random semi truck, or a tidal wave, or a gnat that lodged itself in my windpipe? Why does He have to be so long suffering during my worst? I guess it's because when He says "I love you" and "I will never leave you or abandon you"...He means it.
I've wounded some people over the years with this hurting heart of mine. I've bitten and retreated to the darkness of my doghouse with the taste of blood on my tongue and sorrow in my eyes. The growl hid the tears and the hair-on-end was just a disguise for the brokenness and shame I was feeling. This has not been a fun ride. I've asked to get off many times but God in his infinite wisdom decided it wasn't time yet...there was still something to learn. If you're on that list of those whose flesh has broken in a tangle with a "biter"...please forgive me.
I wrote this to inspire...to encourage...and to tell the truth about the hurts we all carry. Sometimes just one person saying it out loud makes it okay for others to think about it too. If that's you...and if that is what is happening as you read these words...my goal has been accomplished. In the coming days I hope to explore some of the good that has come from this dark path I've journeyed. Because honestly I need to encourage myself as much as I want to encourage someone else.
God will not let us rest where we are and being who we are. I realize that and I am being shaken by my corners. I hope when this is done that I will run wild with the hope once again...because I still have some wild running left to do. I love you all, my dearest friends.