All’s quiet on this Friday night, the first night of being 41

All’s quiet on this Friday night, the first night of being 41. No emails of drama, job offers or necessary busy work required to remain a full-time student here. Facebook was shut down months ago. A few strangers said Happy Birthday on LinkedIn. My wife said it, and told our two-year old son to say it. Dad won’t call. This is the way I like it right now. Maybe not when I’m older, but right now, this is fine. There is nothing special about being this old. It isn’t old enough for wisdom or some athletic feat of aging. It’s just old enough that I am now invisible like every other Gen X+ person out there. We don’t matter. Our ideas have been put to the fire and they melted. Our creations will be lost as the digital age advances into being one of purely videos. I never cared much for the gods of Gen X kids, anyway. Those kids worshiped punk rock, skateboards, 80s movies, synth pop, metal, zines, etc. Gen X peaked in 1993 and that was it. It was a swift downhill run met by abysmal copycats of all the underground acts from the 80s and all the child stars of the 80s lapsing into ignominy and death. When Britney Spears and Justin Timberlake arrived, it was clear that the Millennials were in the house and everyone else could leave. I became an adult even as my own generation was already losing its relevance.

So now, what is there? There is no past, anymore, and there is no future. The time is only now. The Kingdom of Heaven isn’t arriving in the clouds, nor is it advancing miserably across the wreckage of a so-called Christian history that looks nothing at all like Jesus. The Kingdom is right here, right now, or it could be, if I decide to let it be. And once it is, the past and the future will no longer matter.

Those moments of stepping outside of yourself

Those moments of stepping outside of yourself, when you know that you need to stay put, to stay grounded, but the activity in which you are engaged compels you to leap forth in joy and in faith that you will be received warmly by those to whom you have entrusted your precious, freed soul. Of course, none of this is considered to be the activity of one who is a grown-up, a man, a real salt-of-the-earth, prime fellow. This is the kind of freedom, when employed around the wrong kinds of people, can find you majorly indebted to them for years. You have handed over a part of your soul–even as you rush furtively to slip back inside yourself, you have already played your hand and revealed an inner truth that was meant to be kept a secret.

In other areas of thought, the construction pounds and beeps and groans and grinds mercilessly outside my window, reminding me that this is a time of wakefulness, not a time of sleep. I am continually re-set within the cast of being focused on the outer life, even as my mind can’t help but try to fall into a trance with one of the patterns of construction machinery.

I am thirty minutes out from my third quiz before Spring Break

I am thirty minutes out from my third quiz before Spring Break–mid-term, really, even though the teachers call them quizzes. I still have a paper to write and notes to take for a class where you are made to feel weird if you don’t participate. There is only about 5% of me left that really wants to be doing this. The rest of me wants very badly for the week free of classes to be here already, even though I will have a million householder duties, like doing taxes, getting the car serviced, etc. piled on me by the time the break gets here.

I am wanting very badly to turn around and put my hand back on the plow, even though I know that this will be a clear signal that I am not fit for the Kingdom of Heaven. I am not saint, though. I tried to be. I couldn’t hack it. I don’t have the patience required to put up with difficult people outside of my family. I am allowing myself to be seduced by endless visions of the happy, suburban life in all of its perfect glory–weekends at Chuck E Cheese, bowling, Gattitown and camping at the lake; trips to the public library to check out science fiction; Netflix binge watching–there are probably ten or more well-known series of shows I’ve been meaning to see one day in their entirety from start to finish–Lost, Breaking Bad, Sopranos, Game of Thrones, etc.; church at that perfect suburban church (yes, it’s mostly WASPs like me) that doesn’t make you feel too guilty about not being Christian enough either in the social justice sense or in the “are you saved” sense of the word; summers to Disneyland, Disneyworld and all-American places like Yellowstone, Grand Canyon, Bryce, Yoesemite, etc.; every few years, trips to Europe or Mexico; brand new cars in the garage more often than not; a garage for both cars; you name it, I’ve probably dreamed it.

Does this mean I am seeking my reward here on earth? Perhaps. It could also mean that I have obtained a much more realistic picture of just who God is and what God expects from me. In reality, most of your American pastors since there ever was such a thing have been men and a few women who more or less live the same lives as the suburban office schmuck–the difference may be by degree–most tend to be poorer than their middle-class counterparts, a few much richer, but at the end of the day, you can’t drive down the block of the suburban communities in just about any middle size town to large city and say: “Gosh, that house must belong to a TRUE disciple of Christ–it’s temporary and ramshackle, and clearly exhibits Christ’s exhortation not to be concerned with the morrow.” Of course not! So then, why am I letting myself feel so guilty about my potential ending of my seminary career?

Because I’ve already bitched and pissed and moaned to my wife and anyone else who will listen how unhappy I was being a button pusher for a marketing crew, and how much I needed to be on the path toward a vocation, and how important seminary was for me. I will be letting down so many people, and pissing off a few. I will be burning a bridge that says I can never really seriously attempt a return to grad school again.

It’s not that I’ve completely made up my mind to move back into the marketing world–but, if the right offer comes along, I am not going to turn it down at this point. I’ve reworked by LinkedIn profile to make it attractive again to recruiters, and have started getting recruiter hits. I’ve sent out a few applications. I am having conversations with people about what getting back into all of that world would look like. It is a world that can have a tremendous appeal to it–going to conferences in places like Vegas, San Francisco and Orlando–sometimes NY and Boston when you are especially lucky—all on the company dime, so that means you can drink it up at the airport and hotel bar for free and sleep in the finest hotel rooms and be treated like a king when you step onto the Expo floor and you aren’t attending as a vendor. The world of pretending like you give a shit about sales and marketing strategies for generating leads is such a fancy, special one, that you start to forget that you are just spending a lot of time getting drunk and bs’ing your way from one conversation to the next.

Actually, it’s kind of amazing how just about any profession seems to require a certain level of bs’ing to prevent you from showing your true hand to the world. At the end of the day, I would rather be bs’ing my way through a secular career where work is work, a job is really just a job, and lives and souls are not at stake, than find myself in the state of bs’ing my way through a vocation where I am faking my piousness to prevent people from seeing a human being living underneath.

The twilight program–never resolving into daylight those dreams which you held back in youth

The twilight program–never resolving into daylight those dreams which you held back in youth. It could be, that day will break, and you will find yourself in a dusty church office in the Midwest, presiding over an inheritance of old books and dying ideas. Or, night will stay night, and you will have to run from the Beast. Or, night will never come at all, and you will die here in the twilight program. The moments of certainty never arrive until you are interacting with others.

The moments of certainty speak of a hyper-reality, a great moment where everything you thought was true turns out to be true, but is much more so True.

You can’t with any confidence look back over your shoulder or put your hand to the plow. You can’t with any earthly assurance venture forward into the dark spaces. No one from the old days will be calling you on the phone, even though you live within a few square miles of so many of the ones from the old days (though they hardly know you now). No one from the new days will be calling you on the phone, even though you might live near many of them as well.

You can no longer rely on the usual suspects to pull you through. This is truly the fire where faith gets tested, and all of the dross that was merely earth, wood, stone and paper gets burned away in favor of the faith that lingers long-suffering underneath. You can’t click around looking for a job that looks like the old jobs, but the next job you do won’t make sense to you today.

In fact, most of the people who make sense to you today, may not fit in the frame so neatly in the near future. When the twilight fades, the uncertainty comes home for who knows how long, but then the trial passes, as does the dark night of the soul, and the dawn arrives with new faces, a new scene, a new world–then, all of the tiny little fragments of being this way here and that way there will align themselves.

You don’t know what a blessed release this is

You don’t know what a blessed release this is, to experience the much-muted refrain of the chaos. It’s hard to explain how a common OTC med can accomplish this. Most seem to argue a placebo affect, or the equivalent of just being numbed or dulled by alcohol. Except, it’s markedly neither of those things. The ever-insistent feedback loops of thoughts, mostly negative, are almost completely gone.

Of course, I know what happens–I keep taking it and its effectiveness wears off. I go get a prescription for a similar type of psychotropic, and I find myself going through the same process–initially, it’s wonderful release and then slowly, the thoughts come back to override the drug. If I persist with the physician, she will start prescribing all manner of extras and correctives to the ones that keep me awake, and then when those give me restless legs, still more on top of them, until I am not really sure why I am doing what I’m doing.

If only praying to God could create this same blessed release from the will to sin, and for good, and without wrecking my creativity completely. Now, wouldn’t that be something? But then again, would it be so bad if most of my creativity went away, and I became a good drone who did things solely by the book?

Be kind to yourself when you are young

Be kind to yourself when you are young. Nobody else will be there to be kind to you the way that you can be kind to you. When you are young, you know more than you think you do in your moments of utter insecurity and fear about the future. When parents and teachers and other so-called grownups are all busy telling you what you need to do and know, you already know more than they do. But, unfortunately, most of the stuff that you think you already know when you are young–the stuff that makes you cocksure and full of bravado–that’s the stuff you know nothing at all about.

But, when you decide that you want to go into this or that profession, and your parents and other elders say that this is not for you, don’t listen to them. When you want to spend the summer reading books instead of doing an internship, don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. When you meet God in the faces of the homeless people in your college town, and feel God’s love upon you in those dark and desperate hours, don’t let anyone tell you that God isn’t there–He’s over here, in our church, the proper church. If you want to join the Army, join the Army. If you want to have a teaching career, have a teaching career. If you want to have your major be a major in something you aren’t sure where it will take you, don’t let anyone talk you out of it because “oh, you can only be a teacher if you do that.”

As a matter of fact, 90% of what you declare you know to be true when you are young isn’t true at all. 90% of what you thought was true, but let some random grown-up persuade you was not true–that’s what turns out to be true. That major or that military experience could have gotten you all the travel you’d ever dreamed of having. Those books you let others tell you to put down could have gotten you on a track to get a PhD in something amazing. That D+ you got in pre-Calc that everyone said was the death knell of your STEM career was just a sign to take the class again and try a little harder next time.

For that matter, most of your so-called friends when you are young will also try to tell you things that you should know are not necessarily true. If you haven’t lost your virginity by the time you go to college, it’s not the end of the world. For what it’s worth, you will be happier with yourself in the long run if you keep your virginity intact as long as you need to/want to. But, don’t let some prude tell you that you can’t have sex before marriage, either. If you don’t get squared away with that firm and certain knowledge you have of yourself, you will let a bunch of people steal your youth and young adult life away. Don’t let pop culture, the media, liberals, conservatives, leaders and losers tell you what to do with your life. If you want to write science fiction novels, that’s okay. If you want to create poetry and paint like French Impressionests, that’s okay. If you love museums, then don’t let someone tell you there are no jobs in museum studies.

For some reason, the world seems chock full of these so-called well meaning souls who want to help you in your so-called path to success and happiness. They will tell you to stop fooling around with computers, and then suddenly all the jobs are computer jobs. They will tell you that majoring in a language only gets you a teaching job, and then you meet people who majored in languages who travel everywhere, work for the CIA, live where they please and provide translation and interpretation services. They will tell you to put down the books and engage in social conversations, and then suddenly you will find yourself in social conversations where everyone but you has read those same books you were told to put away. They will tell you not to go to church, because that’s for old people, and then you’ll suddenly find yourself in a church realizing that this is what you’ve been missing for so long. They will tell you that God and Jesus are only this or that way, and then later on as they are dying they will change their minds and realize that God and Jesus may be more like the God and Jesus you met in meditation and other non-traditional spiritual adventures.

Does this mean you know it all? No, it doesn’t. I think I’ve already said this, but I’ll say it again–everything you think you know when you are young–I’m talking about all of the stuff that you are so confident about as to ignore the adults in your life telling you otherwise–that’s usually the stuff you were simply cocksure and full of hubris about. All of the stuff you allow others to tell you not to do, to put aside because they know what’s best for you–that’s the stuff you know and shouldn’t bother listening to others to tell you what to do. It all begins with being kind to yourself.

If you are not kind to yourself when you are young, then that is when you become susceptible to anyone and everyone trying to tell you what to do. That is when you drink yourself to excess, and avoid the parties where you could have found social success. If you are kind to yourself when you are young then you will find yourself, and find yourself on airplanes to study abroad programs or on boats to places where you serve and defend our country or find yourself in PhD programs where you get to spend your life travelling and working in museums and dusty old college libraries and writing interesting books and papers that may or may not be interesting to very many people, but they are damn well interesting to you, and that’s what matters.

Be kind to yourself when you are young, and you will become sure of yourself–confident in a healthy sort of way, confident that perhaps you can pack up and move to NYC to make it as a writer or a hedge fund manager. If you are not kind to yourself, then that is where all of the problems begin, and everyone thinks that they have the right program to help you, heal you, and make you into an upstanding, proper and productive young adult citizen of the world. The choices that you make when you are kind to yourself leave behind memories that you cherish throughout the rest of your life. The choices that you make when you haven’t learned to be kind to yourself are the ones that leave you full of all kinds of regrets.

Should you never listen to your parents? Of course not! But, at the end of the day, if your gut is leading you in one direction, and your parents are trying to lead you to some other place, you had better listen to your gut, or you will find yourself living out a life of always being unhappy and bitter as you lurch from job to job, trapped in the shambles of a so-called career pushing buttons for people who don’t need you around to do anything else for them.