Recently, we had the fortunate opportunity to be a part of honoring our pastor and his wife for twenty years of service to our church. It was a wonderful morning, full of surprises for them, and some bucket list moments for me, as well. I was part of editing all of the nine videos created to honor them, plus I got to perform with one of my early music idols, and I got to watch my pastor, who is my ex-boss and one of my dearest friends, and his sweet wife get honored in such a truly, fitting way.
But the phrase “twenty years” struck a different note and tone in my heart. As we walked out of the church that day, headed to a private luncheon in our pastor’s honor, I told Daphne, “I’ll never be able to put in twenty years of work into any one place. I’m almost fifty-two, which means that If I stay at [my current place of work], I’ll be seventy before I can make that claim.”
If that was the end of it, it would be okay, but my own insecurities began taking their usual places in my brain, complete with their own thought-sets that constantly plague me.
“You’re blessed with musical ability, but not enough that you could actually have a real career at it.”
‘You’ve always struggled with weight, so much so that it is always embarrassing to try on clothes, and that, even after months of eating right and exercising, you’re still not anywhere near where other “normal” people would be.’
“You’re the one who, was left out of your high school graduation’s program. You’re the one who would have to endure the entire ceremony while holding back tears of feeling inconsequential, unimportant, overlooked, neglected, and betrayed.”
“You’re the one to watch others repeatedly succeed, earn more, do more, live more, love more, all while you live a life destined to be utterly mid-pack at best, completely forgettable.”
“You’ve known all along that you were an accident. Your dad made sure to let you know, in mostly unspoken terms, that you were not really wanted, that you upset his plans for retirement, that you were an extreme inconvenience.
“You’re the one who would be a good enough dad to inspire his oldest daughter to dream big, but not good enough for her to want to stay near you. And while we’re on the subject of daughters…you’re the one whose youngest daughter would have gotten sick and died. You’re the one who couldn’t save her. The one whose sole job it was to protect her, and you completely failed at it.”
“You see? You’re a failure. Your life has been one failure after another, after another, after another, why would you expect anything else?”
Now, before you go trying to appease me by giving me vain compliments (that’s not my intention for writing this piece) or trying to fix me (not my intention, either, so just…don’t), please understand that these are just thoughts. I do my very best to cast them down, but they do reoccur, at a swifter pace than I would like.
All of us have our own set of lies that we hear in our heads or we tell each other every day, but we have to learn how to combat them with the truth. I’m (slowly) learning how to do this, even at a half-century old, even at an age when I should have mastered this years ago.
The truth of the matter is that I have put in much more time and energy into a career, not with one employer, but with several, and they each have been greatly rewarding in their own way. I’ve gotten to do some great things in my life, and I stand in humble gratitude for all God has allowed me to do.
The truth of the matter is that I’m married to a beautiful, godly woman, with whom I will celebrate twenty-five years of marriage later this year.
The truth of the matter is that together, Daphne and I reared two fearless, warrior-girls who were not afraid to dream big and fight big. I’m so proud of my two daughters and all they have accomplished in their short lives.
Which brings me to the photo at the top of this post… Katie wrote this to me on the back of one of my business cards right after we got into a HUGE augment, over which I can’t even remember. It was probably somewhere around 2009 or so. After we traded apologies, I told her that I didn’t want to be a bad daddy. I had to go to a meeting, and when I returned to my desk, that card was waiting for me. I keep it in my wallet to remind myself that my little girls were always watching me, and that her older sister is still watching me, even though she’s a grown woman.
The truth of the matter is that I have learned what actually matters. God, my wife, and my girls, in that order. Everything else on the list of things that matter is frivolous by comparison, although they are affected by my love for the first three listed.
And the real truth of the matter is that, even if I had the greatest success or the worst failure, our lives are nothing but a vapor. It is so easy to get our eyes on what is happening in the here and now, that we forget about what will happen in the sweet by and by. And the honest truth of the matter is that all the questions that we want to ask God about our current suffering and failure will suddenly not matter at all when we see Jesus face to face. It’s perhaps the greatest irony of all that the moment we’ll have the chance to get it all answered, the answers will mean nothing, because we will have our reward.
God, help me not to look at my past, current, and future failures. You know as well as I do that they are (and will be) plenty. Help me, instead, to look at how I’m becoming more like You, how I’m becoming a better husband, friend, mentor, pray-er, giver, worshipper. Help me continue on the path that You have set for me, and help me to walk that path in gratitude for all the places it has led me, even in the wilderness moments. God, help me to not just focus on twenty years of earthly living, but the 20 trillion-plus years I will spend worshipping You.