Class went well today. Mostly just paperwork and the meet and greet with the instructor staff.
As I sat in class today listening to the stories and really letting the weight of what I have just embarked upon sink in a little bit more, I realized that I am really pretty nervous. This is not like me normally so I spent some time trying to figure out the source of this twinge of anxiety.
I am not afraid to fail (even though I never have), I am afraid of succeeding. There seems to be a deep fear in me that says I will do well in this course, like I have in every course I have started, and then I will get to the job and not be prepared. I will know the book answers, but won’t be able to function in reality. I heard a theme with the instructors today… trust the course… you will be ready.
I had to think about the rest of my life also.
I do not want to study in order to pass the tests and practical evaluations in my class just to fail on the job. Am I now doing what is “right” by my family so that I can pass the tests in life? Am I investing in my kids now so that when they are teenagers or college kids, I will have a good relationship with them resulting in my good grade? Or am I more concerned about preparing now so that I can reign with Christ in Heaven?
This struggle in me has been communicated by others in this way…
Do I live for the applause of men or for the applause of Heaven?
If I am studying for the test, then I am living for the applause of men.
If I am preparing for the reality to come then I am living for the applause of heaven.
When thinking about the school, I do not want to fail at all. I want to be good at my job and I do not want to cause harm to anybody around me. I want to be trusted and I want to have the ability to take care of other people. I will have to trust those who have gone before me, those who have set the example for me, and I will have to follow their advice.
Trust the course… you will be ready.
I live with an incredibly deep insecurity that screams at me each day with an incessant voice of rage and terror that says the time is coming and you are not ready… will not be ready…
I feel that pressure in so many things. This is the pressure that causes me to naturally be such a “do-er.”
I would like to start living out of a sense of preparedness instead of a sense of dread for the future. I want to start tasting the life I now have for what it is worth as opposed to tasting the bitterness of loss which has not yet occurred.
I feel the tension of having my eyes on the horizon, ever vigilant for what is coming and distant from what is currently happening around me. I feel as though, if I stop looking at the horizon and focus on what is around me, I will not see the mountain and we will crash and burn because of my failure, but if I keep my eyes on the horizon, we will reach the destination and my family and friends will disembark as strangers to me instead of those with whom I have developed intimacy.
I did not plan out this post. I wanted to check in after the first day and say things went well. Then I rambled about my heart a bit.
I saw an image of Sarah standing around a corner when God told Abraham that he would be a father.
I thought about me wearing a wedding ring and coming home to a wife after work.
Jessica and I had started sending emails back and forth. It was a lot fun. We talked about what we wanted out of the future, our plans, our dreams, and the things we enjoyed. As time went on, we started talking about the things in our pasts, our missed opportunities, goals we let go of, and the stuff we have to do but that we really don’t like at all.
At some point she asked me about my faith and made some kind of comment about how she wished that she was more like me in that area. That made me feel good, and instead of telling her the truth, I jumped at the opportunity to lead.
The truth was that I really was not mature in what I believed. The truth was that the only time I really spent reading my Bible or Praying was when I was at the Bible Study on base. The truth was that, other than the Bible Study, I spent maybe 1 day a week reading my Bible and 2 mornings praying at best. The truth was that I was probably just as immature as she was.
The truth is she was carried away by my dashing good looks, winning personality, and could not resist a man in uniform.
The truth is… I had no idea how to respond.
But I knew what the guys who were influencing me were doing. They were reading a passage of the Bible with me, and then asking questions. Easy Day!!
So in addition to our standard email traffic, Jessica and I started studying scripture from 500 miles apart. I had no idea what I was actually teaching and had no vision for where I was leading, but it felt good, was fun, and brought me a little bit of joy.
After a couple months of this, I was sitting at my computer when I got this ridiculously crazy thought.
“Mike… It’s time for you to get married.”
I laughed about that. Like a whirlwind I saw in my mind as though a movie were playing before me, a woman in a long white toga style dress, carrying a jug of water and a bunch of grapes, jump back behind a wall as she heard the men talking. “What did he just say? Did he say I was going to have a baby? Funny…” I guess when God communicates something, He does not particularly enjoy being discounted and then laughed at.
It felt like a glass of ice water running down my back as I contemplated the connection between that old story and what was happening in my life. The implication was pretty overwhelming.
Did God realize to whom he was speaking? I was a committed bachelor to the rapture. I was not going to be slowed down by some woman. I was going to live a wild and dangerous life, free from the burden of having to provide for and please a woman. I just knew that my future had a lot of travel, a lot of living cheap, train hopping, hitch hiking, running from danger, eating questionable food, kind of elements in it. Things that do not mix so well with a wife, and lets not even start talking about kids.
For me to get married would mean a complete loss, a total sacrifice of who I was and what I wanted out of life.
This all moved so fast I was left in a bit of a daze. I left my barracks room and went for a walk. That walk ranks among the most sobering walks I have taken. While cruising down the jogging path along the water’s edge and between the command buildings, I presented what I believed to be a pretty iron clad reason why this was all a bunch of garbage that I had made up in my own little head.
I didn’t have a girlfriend.
I didn’t have any girl friends.
I didn’t have any girls who I felt would ever want to be my friend.
I had precious few friends…
So I said,
“If this is God telling me that it is time to get married, then who should I marry?”
Before I could really finish the thought, I immediately thought of 5 different girls. I wanted to dismiss that too but remembered how I felt when I laughed after the first experience in this developing conversation.
This cannot be. This is not how it works. There is a man for a woman and a woman for a man, but not many possible matches for a woman or a man. There is just the one out there. I know this to be true because of my extensive background in the dogma and philosophy of Disney and chick flicks… and the Bible… right?
Wrong. I will not hijack my own post in order to start a treatise on the will of God, but suffice it to say that this conversation began a really great foray into that topic.
I had a lot of assumptions but no direction and no way to test any of these assumptions. I was assuming that it was God speaking to me, that He wanted me to be married, and that He was giving me a choice between these 5 ladies. I felt like I had nothing really at stake yet, so my bets were still safe.
“God… if this is really you speaking with me… and this is really how this is supposed to go… then I choose Jessica. If you really are telling me it is time to be married and I can pick between any of these women, then I choose her. If all that I have just said to You is true and accurate, then I ask You to affirm this decision by blessing the relationship and making it crystal clear that we are to be married.”
I figured if I was going to play a hand with God I might as well go all in.
I made my way back to my barracks room, got something to eat, and then went to hang out with the couple guys that I usually spent time with.
I told nobody about this conversation.
Nothing changed in my life. It was like every other time that I thought I had communicated with God. Big, exciting, encounter and then left waiting and watching… and watching…
… and then I saw my life changing right before me.
It seems the purpose of the runway walkers, and I do not mean FOD walk down, is to provide us an example of the fashion designer’s vision for their latest clothing line. In that same line of thought are the fitness and body building models. I’m thinking the marketing folks use these as examples of what we should look like and if we use their products or read their magazines, we will be like them.
“Bro… what on earth made you want to write a post calling yourself a Supermodel?”
So there I was, sitting in Row R, section 20 something, at the Paramount Theater in Seattle with my wife and my 2 older kids watching The Piano Guys… great show too, by the way. At one point in the show, one of the fellas starts telling a story about his development as a musician. He says that one of his music professors said something pretty powerful to him one day. Something akin to,
“I cannot teach you a passion for music, I can be passionate about music in front of you and hope you catch it.”
Then he tells us about his parents. He said that his parents had a deep love and passion for music. They would listen to classical music in their cars and talk about the composer, they would play instruments and dance, they would listen to music as a family. His parents were passionate about music in front of him, and he developed a passion for music because of them.
Is this a fail proof way to ensure my kids love music, or enjoy the outdoors, or become passionate readers? I do not think so. Will me being passionate about the things in my life tilt the scale, or encourage my kids to enjoy, consider, and maybe even develop a passion within them for the things I value? Possibly… and I think more likely than not, the things that I am passionate about will end up defining who they are in the future. Good and Bad.
This is where it gets kind of scary as a parent… with my attitudes and shortcomings… and my volatile past… and the stuff I still carry… with 4 kids watching me…
I feel a pressure to persuade them to fit a certain set of expectations. Are these expectations appropriate or healthy? If they are healthy and appropriate, is it wise for me to “persuade” them to live up to these expectations? Am I living up to these expectations? The thing about this is that, though these are the questions that resonate deep in my heart sitting around campfires drinking a glass of wine, I am not so sure that these are the questions I should be asking.
If my children will be greatly influenced by what I am passionate about, the expectations don’t really come into play. My desire for them is that they live peaceful and fruitful lives experiencing fulfillment and joy.
And this is where I start moving down the runway.
I feel deeply fulfilled in my life right now. I have finally started experiencing a peace and joy that I have not ever known before. Do not get me wrong, I am still pretty mixed up, deeply conflicted, and carry a heaping load of sorrow, but mixed with all that is a soothing rest for my weary soul. This… This is what I want for my kids. Garbage is going to come to them. I cannot prevent the garbage that is inbound. They have already taken some and, at times, it has come from me.
I can try to persuade my kids to be like me and think like me and believe like me in a hope that, as they grow up and start experiencing the ruthless, painful world on their own, they will one day experience the peace in the middle of it all like me. I can try to demonstrate the actions, disciplines, and philosophy that readers and thinkers say lead to this peacefully fulfilled life.
But the musician did not become a musician because his parents told him that music is important and that they would like to see him become a musician.
This is what I choose… I choose to let my kids see that I am passionate for the things that I value. I will try not to make these things expectations upon their shoulders, or lessons for them to remember, but vibrantly lived life demonstrating with gusto that I am deeply moved by, devoted to, and a disciple of the things which I value.
Of the 3 options, expect… persuade… demonstrate, I choose demonstrate. Is there a chance they will not pick up on my values, or will see what I value and choose not to adopt those things as their values. Yup. There is a chance. Is there a chance that not living up to my expectations will leave them with crippling insecurity. Si Amigo. Is there a chance that my kids would see me trying to persuade them to adopt certain disciplines and values that I do not submit to and have not adopted and, in so doing, drive a wedge of distrust between me and them? Sigh… So from my perspective, in this little cramped cockpit, I have 3 choices here, and two of them hurt my kids or hurt my relationship with them. One option allows them to choose what they want as adults and allows me to love them fully while maintaining my relational integrity with them.
All three options have a risk of my kids being hurt. But no option I know of will keep that from happening. My eyes get wet often when I think about this.
So there it is. I am a model. I think I am a Supermodel. My kids see me as an example of what a man is and what a man should be. Regardless of whether or not I am a model of a good man or a bad man is not the point. The point is that I am a model… so the question stands… What, exactly, am I modeling for my kids? … and why?
A friend of mine told me almost 12 years ago that one of the best things I can do for my kids is to let them see me spending time praying and reading my Bible in the mornings. He seems to think that this will have more impact on them than if I try to teach them the things to believe or set my expectations on their shoulders.
Do I read my Bible and pray in front of them because I want them to do this as adults, or do I read my Bible and pray in front of them because I am passionate about my time with Jesus?
Do runway models and bodybuilder models walking the runway and giving photo shoots because they want to persuade me, or because they are passionate about their art… and the cash that comes from it? Did they come up with their own fashion line and marketing strategy, or did they submit their talents to a designer and publisher in order to enjoy the fruits of their labor?
I did not have many close friends from my high school days. Joining the Navy, moving away, and saying goodbye to my previous life was actually really easy for me. I had a couple close friends, but they kind of held on to me with an open hand mentality.
I did not want to be in somebody’s open hand.
I did not want to be in an open, all inclusive group.
I had nothing to offer anybody nor did I give any group a reason to include me in their exclusive circles. I was right where I deserved to be.
On the outside.
I had just returned from my first deployment. I had toured the nation of Iraq from the Kuwaiti border to Baghdad and then come home to soothing Tennessee. I spent a month home on leave and started hanging out pretty often with a small group of folks my age. We went hiking and to get burgers, bicycle riding and to sit around picnic tables talking, going through motions to be friends but I was always trying out, never making the team.
As much as I cared about being included, the things in Iraq which I had seen and done made me feel as though I could never be a part of this college aged social crew. The truth is I wanted to be accepted but did not want to invest the time or take the risks required to develop these relationships. I was content, at least superficially, to enjoy the month hanging out with the folks and then forget about them when I went back to Camp Lejeune.
I remember hiking and biking with this group and spending my time chit chatting and flirting with a couple of the girls who came along. That cute girl in the perwinkle sundress kept hanging out with these people. I really dismissed her pretty quickly. She was young. She was cute. She was smart…she was soon to be fully enrolled into the Feminazi Training Indoctrination Program, and my mom and sister liked her. I was not interested in her.
At one point during a ride around Cade’s Cove, I pulled my bicycle up next to a girl with long brown hair and started talking. She was sweet and intelligent, fit and refined, and seemed to enjoy my company. While talking and pedalling she said,
” There is no way I would ever go camping for more than a couple days…”
And before she could finish her statement the little girl with the periwinkle sundress, who happened to be riding next to the girl I was talking to, chimes in with,
” I would LOVE to go camping for days at a time…”
And then she pedalled away.
My thoughts…”Who cares what you would like to do. You should go home and play with your dolls.”
There was something about her attitude that caught my attention though. She seemed to never stick around long enough to see what my response was. She seemed to not pay very much attention at all to the opinions of the guys around her. It was like she was in her own little world, oblivious to the rest of us. She interacted with us, but almost as though we were just characters in a big play and not like we were the ones around which the world pivoted.
I kept trying to flirt with this brown haired girl, but I kept an eye on that sundress girl.
She really was in her own world in a lot of ways. She really seemed to either be completely and totally out to lunch or driven by a desire to please the play’s unseen director. As much as I wanted to deny it, I was deeply attracted to that kind of confidence.
As the month started to draw to an end, and the lazy days in the mountains numbered in the single digits, and my normal routine of living in the barracks and training for war crept upon me, I found my thoughts drifting back to those hazy, sunny days and the interactions I had with this enigmatic young lady.
The last interaction I remember from this period was back in the same church in which I had first seen her. I was being goofy and stood in a doorway and would not let people through the door until I had a chance to pick on them. I know, I know, such a bully kind of thing to do. These weren’t old people, they were my age and it was fun. When I did this to the girl with the periwinkle sundress, she just stood there and looked at me, then delivered a curt, gentle, and fiery, “No, move please…” and walked right by me.
I have experienced that before, but it usually comes with a lot of posturing. There was none of that. She conducted herself with the quiet confidence of a queen and glided by as though she wore glass slippers. I stepped out of the doorway and watched her walk by… and I really liked what I was watching.
I left a couple days later. For the duration of my 8 hour drive back to my home in Jacksonville, NC, my mind raced. Other than thoughts about firing RPG’s at cars that cut me off and how much trouble I would get in if I drove through the median of the interstate to get around traffic, I was fixed on her.
What I really wanted to was to connect with somebody in a lasting, meaningful way. What I did was dismiss everybody in that group. What I was left with was a few small memories, a flutter in my heart, and the name of a girl and her email address.
I returned to Lejeune and started hanging out with the guys who were quickly becoming my new family, but I did not tell them about this girl. In a moment of loneliness one night, sitting in my barracks room, I decided to send her an email.
“hello, I just wanted to drop a quick line tellin you…”
I was just going through the motions really. I went to Church with my family because that is what you do when you are home on leave (Navy for “vacation”). I still shared the same religious beliefs that my parents had, but I did not know anybody in this Church. It was not the Church in which I had grown up, but in order to honor my Mom and Dad, I stood by them through the service.
Since I knew I would not be in town for long, I did not feel the pressure to connect with anybody in this Church. I spent the entire first part of the service standing in the back row while everybody else was singing. Instead of opening my mouth, I was scanning the room. Seeing if there were any other folks there like me. You know, relatively good folks, younger 20’s, not so engaged, more or less there to please their parents… I figured I’d try to link up with these people and see if I could engage in the typical social life of the day. Go see a movie, get a bite to eat, go on a hike, you know… You should know that I was paying a little closer attention to the college age girls who were, I was hoping, doing exactly what I was doing.
The part of the service where everybody sits down and somebody from the congregation comes on stage to sing was beginning. I had a couple girls and a couple guys picked out to link up with after the service and see if I could plan a hiking trip with them. Sitting there on the back row with my head full of images of the Smoky Mountains, this girl starts belting out a tune with great gusto. I cannot tell you what song she was singing, but that girl could sing. She looked like she was either a senior in high school or maybe a freshman in college, but that would have been a stretch. She was one of the cutest girls I had ever seen. All thoughts of the Chimney trail in the Great Smoky Mountain National Park fell out of my head. I was mesmerized! And she just stood there, singing her heart out in a periwinkle sundress. Narrow straps. Cute shoulders.
I leaned over to my Mom and asked her the obvious question that was running through my head… “Mom, from what magical world has this little princess come from?” Which, if I recall correctly, came out more like…
“Mom… who’s that?”
“O, That’s Jessica… Why?”
“Just… she’s cute is all.”
My Mom leans over to my sister at this point and then leans back to me…
“Your sister likes her too…”
I had heard enough. All the guys I knew who had been married or were dating had significant drama between their sisters and moms and the romantic interest in their lives. The evidence was overwhelming. If my Mom and sister liked a girl, then there was no way on earth that I would have anything close to a good relationship with her.
And so… as this sunbeam of cuteness walked off the stage, whatever desire I might have had to go talk to her walked off too.
See, I was plaqued with some really skewed ideas about life and I did not yet have anybody in my life to help correct these things in me. I had a pretty young relationship with a really good group of guys and men who wanted to work with me, but I had not yet started opening up to them. I’m sure I’ll talk about these guys in a later post since they did end up having such a significant impact on me.
I knew that I wanted to have a girlfriend and maybe one day a wife who loved me. I did not want a Feminazi… and cute, smart, girls who get along with women of different cultures and generations are bound for college, where the indoctrination into full fledge Feminazi culture would be complete.
And so I let this really sweet looking, super cute, periwinkle sundress walk off the stage. And there I sat… in the back… looking for somebody to talk to, somebody to be my friend...