May 21st, 2011 at around 11a pacific, my family and I stepped off an international flight into the Sea-Tac airport with our new daughter, a beautiful little girl, in tow; we were happy and exhausted. I walked out of the airport to a helicopter in which I was taken to an aircraft carrier; I put on my flight suit and gave a press conference to brag about my latest conquest in front of a ridiculously large banner, “Mission Accomplished” its gospel. A great end to a moving story…draw a tear from a glass eye. Problem: going to China to adopt a little girl wasn’t and isn’t my mission…it isn’t even a means to an end; it is a part of a dynamic story that I am charged with living out, this is what I have learned, this is what I continue to learn.
It is strange, the way I segment my life. “If only I could accomplish this, then I would be happy”, the thought scrambles through my mind with the frenetic delirium of a death-row gerbil. It’s not so much strange that I have the thoughts; more so, it is strange that while the evidence against this theory looms large, I still convince myself that it is true. Somehow, through the haze of a mis-spent youth, and the lead-curtain density of my Irish hard-hat, I do learn somethings. This is what I learned through the “Hard Livin” saga.
I am no island. I have lived, and at times continue to live, as though my actions have no effect on anyone but myself. This is not true now, nor was it true before I almost blew the adoption of Ruby, had to drop out of school, had to pay thousands of dollars in fees and penalties, and had to spend time away from my family in county, these consequences just made the truth obvious…obvious enough even for me. My actions have always affected those who care about me. I have a habit of looking at relationships through the filter of, “how does this affect me?”. “How will this or that benefit me and my needs?” I am a consumer, a consumer of love…more to the point, a consumer of the emotion I recognize as love–for better or worse (or is it worser?). The mistake in this type of thinking is that it is too patso-centric. If I begin to focus more on loving others, rather than how my needs are being met, I open myself up to learning more about love, both the giving and receiving. No longer am I the mirrored-lensed goon, standing in a watchtower, high powered rifle in hand, making sure only the love I recognize makes it on to my yard; I am available to learn about love through others. Love is a bridge that can span any moat.
I don’t like myself all that much. Don’t misunderstand me when I say this…it is not a cry for help from a bruised and beaten down man who has no hope of ever realizing how much he should esteem himself. I love myself to death. I just don’t like myself. Note: The problem of not liking oneself only becomes a problem if one is caught up in self-worship. If one is focused outward, one never really examines this question for an unhealthy amount of time. Oh sure there are times of reflection and all that rot, but it never comes to a point of self-loathing or any of the other logical conclusions of a life spent in terminal self-reflection. For me, I stopped liking myself when I realized the thing I worshiped was not living up to my expectations. This is no new quandary, this is the inevitable consequence faced by anyone imprisoned by idol-worship. Once the object of your worship falls short of your expectations, you become warm to the thought of doing away with said object, or yourself (as the shame of a life spent in false worship becomes to great to bear). The problem with self-worship is the two solutions are really the same. Thus comes the test of ultimate idol destruction, a test some people pass…unfortunately. Another solution is to turn a way from idols and fall to your knees before the one true God. I did this once, which made me a worshiper of God positionally, but on a practical level, in the day to day, there is something in me that always finds a way to worship myself. For me turning away from idols is a daily routine. Hopefully.
Finally, I learned that my hope is not completely wrapped up in the idea that one day I will slip the surly bonds of this body and worship God without fetter; it is also wrapped in the truth that God is changing me consistently; He is changing me daily. Sometimes the change comes through wave after wave of shitty circumstance and sometimes it’s not that easy, but I am learning that I can trust God through it all. In the airport coming home from China, it struck me that in ten days the one year anniversary of the night that I was arrested for DUI would be here. The night that started this chain of events. I remembered the way I thought of God almost a year prior. I was a man who thought, if given the option between making me pay the consequences for my poor choices, or saving a little girl from being an orphan in China, my God would save the girl every time. As I stood there in the airport, and as I sit here writing this now, the power of the day to day change God initiates and completes in my mind is palpable.
I know now, I serve a God who can do both.