There are those days when you; “hit the nail on the head,” and others when you hit the finger instead.
Yesterday evening I finished building two doors for an outdoor lean-to we use for firewood and other misc objects. Critters have been messing around in it and I needed something to keep them out. The project wasn’t hard but my focus was off and in a relatively short amount of time I smashed my finger and hand with a hammer. I was becoming frustrated both by being off target and the pain which was shooting up my arm. Finally, doors in place, I went inside, washed and looked at my damaged digit and hand. Each one had already begun to turn purple and I rolled my eyes at my incompetence. This morning I looked again at the doors and at my bruises. The doors looked nice and will last, hopefully, longer than the damage to my hand. I also thought about all the nails that I hit on the head, drove into the wood without any problem at all.
The path we travel will have it shares of twists and turns, bumps and bruises, obstacles and heartaches. The temptation when we encounter these is to close our eyes to all the good, what’s going right, the blessings and focus solely on what’s not working, hurting us, the negative, impeding our way. The choice to look around and see the fuller picture can be the difference between keep going or giving up, hoping or despairing, living or just existing.
I knew it was bad news when the doctor moved in close and said in a somber tone; “We need to talk. Watch this video and then we’ll discuss it further.” The voice on the two minute clip began with these words; “When we were young…” This must be worst than I thought! “Were young?” When did “were” become a part of my description? After the video finished playing the doc said; “Your eyes aren’t as strong as they used to be…you need bifocals!” What?!?! Me?!?! Bifocals?!?! I remember looking at my grandmother’s glasses when I was a boy and asking; “why do your glasses look so funny? What’s this line in the middle of the lens?” I tried them on and they made my head hurt. I decided that bifocals were not for me. They were for old people! Yet, here I sat today, the eye doctor telling me what aches, pains, earlier bedtime, night trips to the bathroom, acid re-flux, a receding/graying hair-line had been saying for a while. “Brian, you’re not so young anymore.” Sigh.
The truth I must accept is; there’s nothing I can do about getting older. I once heard a comedian say; “All those health nuts and workout freaks are going to be really aggravated one day when they’re lying in a hospital bed, dying of nothing.”
Old. Why are so many of us afraid of such a small word? Maybe it’s because we equate being old with being of little use, past our prime, waiting for our demise. C.S. Lewis says; “You are never too old to set another goal or dream a new dream.” I believe that’s true but on a day I’m feeling my age I also want to make sure what I’m doing now matters. I don’t want to set only goals I might not reach. There are plenty of folks who had retirement plans and never made it that far. Life has a way of making the unexpected expected. I want to be mindful, purposeful in how I am living this day, every day, this moment, every moment. I want to know that if my last breath is drawn today or many years from now that I made a difference and I want this to be enough.
Yesterday I was waiting to be allowed into a classroom of the local correctional facility for my bi-weekly Incarcerated Father’s class. As I sat in the lobby I overheard a prisoner talking to a young boy who apparently had misbehaved and his mother had contacted an officer and arranged a visit to the jail to see what life would be like if he didn’t begin to make better choices. The prisoner told the young one; “You don’t want to come here. Stay away from this place. Listen to your mom. Don’t be like me.” It was heart breaking. There was resignation in his voice, a tone of regret and shame. A man whose life had become a warning not an inspiration.
Part of what I teach the fathers at the correctional facility is they still matter, their life isn’t a waste, they can be a force for good in the lives of their families. They are integral to breaking the cycle of crime and poverty in our community.
Knowing we have a place in this world, that we aren’t just taking up space, there is a plan and purpose for our existence can be the difference between shame and salvation.