This is the third blog in my series:
6 Things Robbing You of a More Meaningful Life.
If you want to read the introduction to this series click here:
|This a picture of a what was once known as the VHS tape|
As a young boy I can remember going to a video store owned by an old man who also sold Civil War relics. (Odd combination, I know.) The walls were lined with VHS tapes, and at the front desk was a glass case filled with old bullets and rusty pieces of gun parts. We would peruse the small room looking for a Disney movie or something else to watch, and I would inevitably end up leaning against the glass box and counting up how much money I would have to save to buy an old corroded bullet. These are the kind of experiences Netflix and Hulu will never be able to offer.
I say all of this because it triggered another memory connected to that place. One day we were leaving the same Video Store, which was in a complex next to a few other small businesses, when I noticed above the Relics and VHS shop were apartments. On that particular day we turned in behind the building when I saw a young, probably college-aged, man coming down the steps from the apartments above the businesses. Funny enough, I literally remember thinking about how awesome it would be to live in one of those apartments. I began to day dream about the day when I went to college and could live there. I think this dream was partly fueled by the idea of Fonzie. I know it dates me, but I loved watching reruns of Happy Days as a child. Anyways, Fonzie lived in that upper room garage apartment, and was the coolest guy I knew, even though he was just a TV character. Just like the Fonz I just knew that one day I would grow up, live in the room above the VHS shop, and do whatever I wanted. I am not embellishing here. I really did fantasize about growing up to be a slob that could eat whatever he wanted whenever he wanted while he watched whatever he wanted.
This silly selfish boyhood dream is humorous to me now, but it is also revealing. For most of my early life my world rotated around the axis of me. It started as just a baby; a toddler screaming, “Mine!” at anyone who tried to touch my stuff. It was developed throughout my school years as I began to try to determine what I wanted to do with my life to make me happy. By the time I was in college and old enough to live out my dream of being a bum living above a video store, I had become completely unaware of just how much I was being driven by selfish ambition.
It was the birth of my daughter that took the first blow to my selfishness. Suddenly I was no longer living for me. Another life form depended on me to survive. (Well, mostly Patience, but me too!) My schedule was abruptly conflicted. Goofing off with my buddies or time with my wife and newborn daughter? Blowing $50 at the movies or buying groceries to feed my family? It was not an easy transition for an immature and selfish young man, and I didn't always make the wisest decisions, but I was learning. Learning that the best things in life are sacrificial. I was starting to see the moments lived for others were the most rewarding.
As I said, this was an arduous and unhurried process. I wrestled with it often as a young father. But life has a way of moving along and quietly making you forget what’s important and what is not. By the time my first son, Sawyer, came along I was right back to living a self-centered life. I had just reworked it to fit into the framework of my family. I did not care about anybody but the people inside my four walls, and I wasn't going to waste my time on anything that didn’t involve making me happy or comfortable. Unbeknownst to me, my world was about to be drastically altered.
I have mentioned the trip to Standing Rock Indian Reservation before, but I cannot overstate it enough. It was the turning point in my life that lead me away from a self-centered existence. I fell in love with a bunch of helpless kids who nobody loved and nobody cared for. It widened my perspective and made my heart want to do something for the marginalized. And the more I started living an other-centered life the more rewarding I found it to be. This lead to other mission trip opportunities, which lead to working right here in my own community, which lead to cultivating the same kind of living in my own circles and in my own home.
This all sounds really almost arrogant, but I do not mean it that way. This was by no means something I have done on my own. It has been a bumpy road of taking one step at a time in the direction God was leading me. There have been plenty of back steps, and a few hard falls, but He’s kept calling me away… away from myself, into a richer more beautiful life serving Him by serving others.
But the boy in me will not go down without a fight. There is still this voice that longs to hang it up and just live life for myself. But then I think about the night I spent on the roof of a barn on the reservation, talking about life with three of my best friends in the world. The moon was as full as our hearts, and the cool breeze blew the black fields of the North Dakota plains. I think about the children we fed in Honduras at the grand opening of a feeding kitchen built in honor of my mother for her 50th birthday. The kids had walked with parents for miles through the mountains and smiled with a glowing gratefulness as we handed them a small bowl of rice. I think about Korea, and holding my son Wesley for the first time in my arms after two years of endless paperwork and lots of tears. All of these moments are among several more that shine the brightest when I look back upon my life, and every single one of them happened because I made the choice to live for someone else besides myself.
Sure there are memorable vacations and other times where we had fun doing something just for ourselves. And I am not saying those things are bad. Just don’t use them as an excuse to fill up your calendar to the point where you leave no margin for others.
I never was able to live out my dream of living above the video store, and thank God I didn’t.
Imagine how much I would have missed.