I liked the idea of The Savings Club Box Store. It was something I wanted to try when we moved back to Austin. Going up there on a Saturday afternoon was a terrible idea. The sign-up was pretty much as I expected–someone pushing a more expensive membership on me while I filled out a form by hand and had my picture taken. You have to go in through the Exit which you don’t know until you are already going in the entrance, and then you have to wait around while you shuffle back out with the people who purchased things to get back in through the entrance. Mobs of people, pushy people–humanity at its greediest and worst. All to save a few dollars during the year, maybe even get back the cost of the membership. It dumped rain on us as we exited, and the hoardes were all vying for the single exit on an access road.
If this wasn’t God testing my patience, I don’t know what was. The rain dumped buckets on 183 and I-35, and I powered the Forrester through massive sheets of runoff flooding. Yesterday morning, there was no rain in the forecast until next week, but here it was in relentless amounts. Climate change has arrived, and we in Central Texas are apparently seeing more rain than drought. This isn’t so bad, but it has felt like South Carolina since we’ve come down to Austin from Waco–the floodgates seemed to open the day we arrived in Austin.
Believe me, I have plenty of moments where I am really beginning to wonder if I’ve made the right decision. Surely I could have found a nice tech company on one of the coasts to pay me a six figure salary to do what I’ve always done, and stop trying to have a career where I actually have to talk to people. The face I see in the mirror is that of an old man–too old, really, to be trying to start over again at anything.
Of course, God got us through all of the stress-inducing things, and we will probably go on to happily settle in here with normal routines and few surprises. Nobody I’ve run into at the seminary so far seems to question the fact that I am here–I am not getting odd looks that seem to say “What does HE think he’s doing at a place like this?” From what I’ve seen and heard, they get their share of weird introverts who aren’t necessarily ready to be Joel Osteen, but are probably more like Moses himself–crabby, shy, afraid to talk to people, wondering why God is bothering them with this request at a stage in life when a career, family and nice house are all supposed to come together perfectly to create the perfect portfolio for endless vacations abroad until death itself arrives. Or, maybe I’m just projecting myself out onto the quiet ones here.
I am not your typical anything. I can actually be quite assertive and outgoing when I want to be. I can speak to groups with confidence when I see how well it serves me to do so. I can flash smiles across my face that seem to light up everyone around me. But, I seem to be better at flashing scowls that darken rooms and send people running the other way.
One day, I think that humanity will learn of its true identity and origin and destiny. It will be shocked at just how little distinction there really is between us underneath our veneers of personality. We will learn just how plastic our identities really are, and discover that all of us have probably been black, white, gay, straight, male, female, etc. in some past life. Sure, you have your core You that you know to be you–but how solid does that really feel to you? Solid enough, perhaps to give you confidence to eventually learn to just “be yourself” in this life without worrying whether it’s good enough for anyone. But, you always have those nagging doubts, right? Maybe, with just a little tweaking, you too, could be a psycho in prison or a Senator in D.C.
In truth, a place like The Savings Club Box Store is antithetical to who I am trying to become. Yes, I want to save money where possible over the next 3-4 years, but I am hardly the kind of person that really knows if I am getting a great deal or just barely hitting a passable margin of savings. I want to find myself living in an intentional community of people who aren’t all hoarding and keeping their things to themselves, but share most things all of the time without questioning whether someone is being too much of a free rider or not. At the very least, I would like to find myself being abundantly charitable with my time and my heart–and making huge amounts of time to listen to others who need someone to listen to them.
I am still enough of an idealist that I like to think that the future will bring about a world where people a hundred years from now look back on so many things we do as being just as harsh and barbaric as the number of things people did a hundred years ago. In truth, there isn’t much about our social conventions and norms that impress me as being necessarily ones worth keeping–IF we are ultimately able to change them for better ones that allow more human beings of all types to thrive and achieve their true potential. The idea of there being a revolution like the one in Russia a hundred years ago, where suddenly society is completely revised to become something else–that isn’t appealing at all. That inevitably means a ton of bloodshed, and the outcome isn’t that great.
But, for someone to think that we are experiencing the absolute best humanity can ever be in our western culture of today–that, too, is short-sighted and lacking in any sort of bigger perspective. The key to it all is figuring out how to break down all of the walls–be they physical ones or not. I know that all of my walls have to go. They are mostly just “security blanket” walls. It’s easier to remain aloof and pretend not to notice too much that’s going on around you, and act like you are always too busy to stop and talk with someone.
Fundamentally, it’s more than just a matter of practicing saying hello to more people and trying to seem interested in their lives–it’s an entire mental strategy, of allowing yourself to be open and relaxed about it–to be okay if people see your more unseemly side, and not worry too much about it. The effort of imagining yourself more completely and utterly open, with nothing to hide and nothing to take from anyone–if it is practiced regularly both while you are alone and when you are out among others, it could prove to deliver some actual results…