Monday, March 14, 2016

Mid-Life Musings: Part 1

I pull up to the playground outside the school. My daughter sees the van arrive. She begins to run. She sprints all the way across the playground. She grabs her backpack. She starts telling me all about her day, the gift she was given by a friend. We exchange hugs and kisses. We sing children's worship songs as we head to daycare. Mattea likes "This Little Light of Mine" right now. We get out of the car at Teri's house for daycare. She wants me to give her a wild ride, so I pick her up and throw her over my shoulder. I bounce her and spin her. She cries out joyfully and giggles. I set her down with her feet on the ground. She gives me a  kiss as she lifts her back foot up. I let her run in and yell goodbye. She doesn't hear. She is on to the next thing. I walk back to my van, but not without stopping and savoring the moment briefly. I have to stop and savor moments every once in a while. I have to savor a few moments each day just to discipline myself to remember that life is beautiful.

I get home and I check the mail. There are a couple of review books in the mailbox. I wonder if I had ordered both of them for review, or if they just sent them to me to review anyway. One of the books is about Kierkegaard. I love Kierkegaard, but I have not studied him nearly enough. Then I look at the information on the back cover of the book. It says that Kierkegaard died at the age of 42. This catches my attention. I think about how Kierkegaard accomplished so much in 42 years, and how I have really not accomplished much of what I had hoped to accomplish by the time I was 42. I wanted to write a book. I have wanted to get a doctoral degree. Not sure I am smart enough to do either of these things anymore, if I am honest with myself. I wanted a life and ministry that was marked by more visible, measurable success. It is easy to look back. To scold myself for not being more. Or, for at least trying not to be more. 

I have taken measure of my life at different points by paying attention to what my heroes, and at what age they did it. Calvin wrote the Institutes at 26. Martin Luther King Jr. led the bus boycotts in Montgomery, Alabama when he was 26. He died when he was 39. Luther was almost 34 when he nailed the 99 Theses to the Wittenburg Door. I look at these accomplishments, and I ask myself, what have I done to make an impact like that? What should I have done to make my impact on the world?

I have a friend and ministerial colleague named Mike. We were born the same month. Ten years ago we were sitting in coffee shops planning a youth mission trip to Gulfport, MS. He was recently divorced, and serving as an Mission Coach for our denomination (think D.S. in Methodist life). He brought on another person onto our leadership team, and they began to fall in love and get married. His kids were just finishing up high school. Hard to believe that was 10 years ago. I think, by the time he was my age, he was an area minister, and I am still struggling to get people to show up on Sunday to a dying church in a dying town in the middle of the plains, and I have not made nearly enough progress in turning it around.

Then I think, if I was somewhere else, I would not be having my 3 year old running to me in the morning, giggling about her "wild rides", and chattering to me about nothing at all. If I was climbing and striving for something else, I might have missed these moments, even if I was present for them.

And so, in my heart and mind, a battle is waged. A battle between the husband and father that wants to be present for his wife children in way that leaves a meaningful legacy for them, and a driven man and pastor that feels like he is running behind in making his meaningful mark in the world. 

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