Shorter of breath, and one day closer to dead…

Posted: September 25, 2012 in Uncategorized
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That line from an old Pink Floyd song pops into my head from time, usually when I’m feeling in a rut. The song tells of a wasted life, spent “running in place”, expending effort to no avail, and oblivious to the real race already in progress…that is the horrible part. I can kind of understand choosing to stay on the hamster wheel – no surprises, an easy routine to maintain, no one expects too much from you – I wrote previously about adult children who will not grow up. But to suddenly find out that your life’s work has been…not even wasted, but moot?!? That would be enough to stop anyone in their tracks, wouldn’t it? Who could want such a thing? It turns out I did, I just didn’t know it.

I was 37 years old when I realized that I had spent most of my adult life, and a ridiculous sum of money, time, and energy, driving and pushing and straining to become something I suddenly found out I could not achieve…I was trying to be my own savior. My unspoken personal ambition was to have enough (whatever) to never need anyone else, and then to have so much that I would be able to give to anyone who needed… but only so they would know how wonderful I was. Of course, I knew that nobody can be their own savior, in any sense of the word. (Didn’t make me try any less…I once sat through a two-day motivational seminar, and came away with one quote – “The impossible is only what I haven’t done yet.” Pretty much meant I was not allowed to quit, even if it seemed pointless.) I did not want to admit what we all know, deep down: we all need someone else; the richest man alive must have someone to buy from or sell to, or his wealth may as well be worthless piles of sand; the great actor needs an audience; even the lonely hermit needs someone to run away from. Spiritually, we are none of us are complete in isolation, nor sufficient for eternity. The bible teaches us that God exists in community apart from His relations with man; and that we are made in His image; so community must be a necessary part of us as well, and especially community with our Maker.

There are some problems with the idea of needing community with God, though, aren’t there? First, it means I am not God. I am not the final authority on my life, and I must answer for my decisions. It also means that there can be no community unless I acknowledge His authority, as my Lord and King, because that is who He is, and He will not receive me in anything other than truth. My plan to be the hero for everyone else goes off the rails, too, since it is predicated on filling my own needs first. Look at the mess this makes of all my presumptions and pretensions! And I wanted this?

All I can say is, I was relieved when I finally ran out of ideas, plans, plots, schemes, lists, methods… and excuses. I had been away from home twenty years, and still needed my dad to bail me out (sometimes literally). My first marriage had fizzled almost instantly; the second was on the rocks after ten years of stormy sailing; I was a raging workaholic; and alcohol and cocaine had done more than a fair share of damage by then. Then one day, Karen looked at me and said she was leaving, with the kids, and she would call tomorrow – to find out which I wanted to keep:them or the drugs, because I couldn’t have both anymore. I sat there, in a dark, empty house – the lights were off because I had put the money up my nose – and I asked myself what I really wanted. Hours passed, and the only answer I had was…something I didn’t already have. At this point, I can only describe it as a vision appeared. It was a door, simple yet elegant, rich wood, plain knob. The door was closed, and there was a warm, inviting light coming from under the door…a light which only made my dark room seem even darker. I understood I was being offered a choice: stay where I was, with all that I had around me; after all, it was all mine…or open the door and step into that beautiful welcoming light. The door was not locked, but there was a cost to open it. I would have to step out of my hamster wheel, accept whatever or Whoever I found on the other side of that door, and learn a new way to live. It was not a difficult choice to make; keeping it has been another thing entirely, but I would not go back for “all the kingdoms of the world”.

So there are days when I feel short of breath, and days I feel closer to death. But those things no longer frighten me. I try to have the attitude of Paul:  in his patient endurance, made possible by grace; in his steadfast effort for the Kingdom of heaven on earth, and most of all the joy of knowing what awaits me when I do die…”To live is Christ, to die is gain.” (Phil 1:21)

Following hard after Him,

Nick

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