A family in Italy was killed by their church this week.
In the monster quake that hit their town a mother, father and their two small children were crushed in their sleep when the holy edifice they lived next to collapsed on their house. Such loss, absolutely tragic…
I heard a story today about a man. A tuba man. At the age of 7 he was smitten by the instrument. Transfixed he gave his life to the tuba all thru school. Then he opened up a music store to sell tubas. Now retired, he’s opened up the first museum in the US dedicated to… tubas. Rooms and rooms filled with the metallic gong. Presently in his 80’s, he still sounds like a 7 year old when he’s talking about his passion. He sounds ridiculous. And yet… part of me envies him.
I’ve always been successful. From a young age I was successful in academia. I found sports and grew up traveling the country winning races in a variety of venues. In the workplace I’ve always risen to the top- sometimes too quickly- and had the spotlight on me much of my career.
When I was 12 I dreamed of going to the Olympics and becoming a sports doctor in Colorado. I embarked on the road to Olympic glory and getting the best education money could buy.
I gave that up just before graduating high school. Something greater grabbed hold of me.
I was hooked overnight. Sold out. A believer. Straight out of high school, I moved to Mexico and gave my life away. Loved every minute of it (especially the tacos). Fell madly in love and married on my arrival back to the states. Went to seminary and signed on staff at beautiful beach-side church. In all my aptitude tests at school I scored off the charts in my “giftings” and abilities. Young, gifted, passionate and with a perfect wife… there were no boundaries in front of me. It felt like the midi-chlorians had conspired to make the next “great one”. Yes sir, I was on track to becoming the next Billy Graham or Greg Laurie.
At least, that’s how I felt inside…
We got down to the business of turning the world upside down in my community. I loved all of it. It was fun and fulfilling. The people were worked alongside with were amazing and we tackled the challenges and adventures as a close-knit fellowship. I believed I had found my life’s calling and purpose. I was convinced that I would grow old there, doing some good. Like the tuba guy, I had arrived. I had found “it”.
10 years later, a different narrative had appeared. The fire was no longer firing. Perhaps it was the economy, or the lazy beach atmosphere or something rotten. Whatever the root cause, we couldn’t seem to make it work or go anywhere anymore. Movement was hard, laborious, and coming at a high personal cost. There was that nagging sense haunting me; that I had lost myself somewhere between A and B in the midst of the journey.
Yet we smiled and continued to soldier thru it
The cavalry was called in to help fix up, clean up and jump start our flagging fellowship. We were elated; hope-filled for the first time in years. Now things would be different, now the ship would right itself. I believed. I embarked on a year-long coaching, training, auditioning sort-of process. While challenging, I was positive that my second chance was just around the corner. Now, I would have the new tools to do this thing and succeed and rise like I always had risen in every other area of my life.
Then the hammer dropped.
New blood had been called in from the outside to come in and take things over. Fresh vision and perspective was needed. Younger folks with charisma, success, and a proven track record with all the right giftings and talents. Folks that possessed that intangible quality for winning.
It was now made clear to me, that in the eyes of the clean up cavalry, we were not ‘it’. My wife and I were not considered for the new position to take the helm. Nor were we offered the opportunity to not take it.
We were devastated. Crushed. By the church.
So, at 33 I was aware that I no longer possessed any of those world-changing abilities that I thought I had. Others had those attributes. My second chance at reclaiming my purpose and passion now lay lost and lifeless.
The old was moved out, the new moved in and the ocean tide kept up it’s rhythm and rhyme.
We moved to Colorado for a fresh beginning.
Now let’s be fair. I suppose I had my chance to help make the church ‘go’ for a number of years- and we just didn’t or couldn’t. It just didn’t take the way I hoped it would. Did I try my hardest? Give my best? Believe against all odds? Yes. I can assign no blame to no one.
Therein lies the rub, to try your hardest and still not succeed goes against everything we believe and teach our kids. No one wakes up and decides to be below average. No one grows up to desire to be the last one picked on the hockey team. No one wants to lose.
Time and distance do help the healing process. As do mountains (especially the Rockies). Wilderness is therapy to a soul that aches. Its been 2 years and I dare say we’re doing better. Even joined a local, phenomenal church and are starting to help and serve there a bit too (that was and still is a small miracle).
Possessed by my dreams from early age, I find myself in that vulnerable position of ‘what’s next’? Right now, not entirely sure. And that bothers me. I’ve always been sure of my direction, sure of my vision and sold out to my passions. At the moment I’m about as average and normal as the guy next door. No world changer here, just a guy mowing his lawn and paying the bills.
Much of the time, this normalcy thing feels really nice. Raising my beautiful family and holding them close feels pretty good. Owning a nice home, working a good job, and being 100% present for my kids is an amazing thing- to be sure.
And yet..at times I still ache for that something more, something deeper, something special…
My children went thru the church-life collapse. They were in the room next to us sleeping peacefully when that dreadful building crashed thru the roof of our lives displacing everything normal.
What about their hearts, and their futures? They were mixed up in mine and bear the scares now too.
I want to tell them to follow their dreams and passions and at the same time I want to protect them from the realities of the world we live in. A quietness creeps in my lungs and perhaps I tell them less than I should…
Dang it’s such a struggle and fine line to walk.
Would I change things if I could? No at all. I’m grateful for the journey, and the beloved people in it; all of it.
Will I always have half a heart collapsed? Will I still feel like this when I’m 40? Is being just an average guy enough or should I be about something more? I’m still wrestling with these questions on my darker days. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not all doom and gloom. I love my life. But I admit that I’m still in the middle of the process; I have not reached the other side of this yet.
The church may have collapsed on my home in the night, catching me, my wife and my kids unawares. At times, it felt like we were crushed and our hearts were killed in that life-quake.
After destruction- like from an earthquake- decisions about rebuilding are mulled over and then made. Sure the rubble may be left for a time at ground zero, but it eventually gets sorted then moved. A clean slate remains.
I observe the trees on my long hikes here in the mountains. All around me they grow in the midst of near-impossible conditions. Happy as clams they grow and do their thing. And just like these stout-hearted trees, I see us growing up, thru and out of the midst of the rocky rubble of our past.
Growth may be slow, but it feels assured. My story isn’t yet over.