Looking back on 36 years, and learning to trust
Tomorrow is my birthday. I’ll be 36.
This week, I spent a few days with my good friend, Doug, and his family. We have known each other since junior high school, and we’ve been roommates a few times over the years. We’ve played in rock bands together and we went to the same college.
Given our history, it felt weird to be driving around town in a minivan with our families. How in the world did we get here?
Five years ago, my wife, Amy, and I were living in Fort Worth, Texas, as she entered into her final semesters of seminary. We talked about getting pregnant, and we wondered where we might be called after her graduation, and what our ministry together might look like.
Ten years ago, I was working as an education consultant. I was single and traveled almost constantly. I had no home address, living for months at a time in Seattle, Chicago, Atlanta, Denver and Dallas. In my alone time, I was working on a novel that would sit on my shelf for another decade with no other home.
Fifteen years ago, I was studying music and psychology at the University of North Texas in Denton. I had hair down to my belt, and I was singing in night clubs most weekends. I had bold aspirations to become a rock star. I was working for the university, but soon I would take a job with a major record label, a step that I was sure would take me toward that coveted stardom.
Twenty years ago, I was completing what would be my final year at a private school in Dallas before my parents’ divorce and subsequent family upheaval. After much therapy and struggle, I landed at an arts magnet school in downtown Dallas, where I completed high school. Aside from girls, the only other thing on my mind was getting out on my own.
Twenty-five years ago, my father was riding the economic boom of the 1980s that swept through Texas. We were going on expensive trips, driving luxury import cars, and we moved into a gigantic house in an exclusive neighborhood. Though I had a miniature suite to myself in one end of the house, I hated it because none of my friends lived nearby, and it was too far to ride my bike back to my old neighborhood.
Thirty years ago, I was practicing my reading and spelling skills at Helen Vial Elementary in Garland, Texas. My teachers advised my parents that I was too precocious to remain challenged in the public school environment, and that they should look into private schools. Though this new environment would challenge me, we had no idea how it would affect my social relationships with kids in the neighborhood who all went to the same school.
Thirty-five years ago, we were living in a modest apartment in downtown Dallas. My parents didn’t know how to make ends meet from one week to the next. My father met with a man at an employment agency and explained how much he needed to make to survive. Though he would prefer the work was legal, he committed to doing whatever he had to in order to keep food on the table.
How could I have known that each of those steps, as well as so many smaller ones in between, would have led me here? I couldn’t. It’s an exercise in powerlessness to consider how little control we really have. Some believe God has a greater plan for our lives from the beginning, while others trust the winds of chance to blow us from one moment to the next.
Soon, this present moment will be nothing more than the latest step in that meandering path, leading God-only-knows where. Giving up control over life’s greater trajectory is an ongoing struggle, but one that seems to get easier with the benefit of age. For now, my focus is on three things: gaining wisdom from the past; maintaining gratitude for the present; and clinging to hope for the future.
I’ll trust God with the rest. It’s worked out pretty well so far.