Messy lives and unknown futures are merely the backdrop

Here are some thoughts that have been bouncing around in my head of late.

I’m tired most of the time and, for now, have decided that’s okay. I’m not planning to shake my fist at the world and yell “I’ll sleep when I’m dead!”, but I do find myself ever more content with a full life that leaves me wondering if I’ll have the energy to make it through tomorrow.

I love coffee, and think it is just amazing that my wife takes the time to make it for us each day. There’s a real joy in service offered day in and day out without the burden of expectation, and I do strive to feel a surprised gratefulness each and every day that lovely aroma embraces me in the morning.

For a time, I find myself working too much, driving a commute I swore I would never have, and not seeing my family as much as I’d like, yet I feel like I’m enjoying both my work and family more than ever. My guess is that after months of unemployment, there is a certainty, an emancipating clarity, of what I need to do, and that helps the doing of it not be a burden.

There is an upside to commutes, particularly with modern gadgets. I recently finished a large lecture series on the Byzantine Empire, and have now begun a much larger series on the Roman Empire, all freely available as podcasts. By the way, though the Byzantines have more or less been trod upon in our histories in the west, particularly since the publication of Edward Gibbon’s work around the time our nation was born, their influence on the course of history in the west cannot be overstated (that’s an overstatement… but you get the point). Here’s a quote from the podcast author to whet your appetite:

Still, it was Byzantium that preserved for us today the great gifts of the classical world. Of the 55,000 ancient Greek texts in existence today, some 40,000 were transmitted to us by Byzantine scribes. And it was the Byzantine Empire that shielded Western Europe from invasion until it was ready to take its own place at the center of the world stage.

Chronic pain is a real bummer, and very different than pain (minus the chronic part). After all my major reconstructive foot surgeries a decade ago, not to mention the spinal fusion of my childhood, I’m in pain most of the time. And being unable to run, jump, etc. is a real drag on my competitive spirit. I’m missing out on huge chunks of the good life, both for myself, and my kids. Most days, that hurts worse than my feet.

I seem to experience God’s grace, his kindness to me, more and more as a calmness in the face of what is hard, or embittering, or intensely frustrating. Chronic pain is… it just sort of fades to the background. I can’t play soccer with my kids… like that’s my real failing as a dad, versus the anger I put on display, or the fights I start with their mom. I don’t think I’m able to struggle for contentment, yet God in his goodness seems to give me more and more each day.

I’m not sure I want the good life anymore. There’s one pernicious flavor of the good life that is defined in terms of what you don’t have. The good life is keeping up with your neighbors. I’m not talking about that one. I still hunger for that one as much as anyone, in spite of my hatred of it. I mean a neat, orderly, successful life. I’ve always enjoyed quoting Proverbs 14:4, particularly to tired mothers of young children. I was content when we had three children, and let me tell you, our fourth does not contribute to neatness and orderliness. Yet life without Josiah… no thanks.

I’ve grown weary of spiritualizing issues of the heart that sure sound like they should involve actions. Over and over God says things like:

Give justice to the weak and the fatherless; maintain the right of the afflicted and the destitute.

Learn to do good; seek justice, correct oppression; bring justice to the fatherless, plead the widow’s cause.

He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?

Here’s something strange. For months, I felt more and more burdened by such statements, and secretly concluded a few months back I wanted to consider adopting an orphan. I say secretly because I never spoke a word of it to Tricia, hoping the burden would pass with time. It didn’t, but I kept my mouth shut. Something about the Haiti earthquake forced me to speak of it to Tricia, and wouldn’t you know it, she had been experiencing the same burden for an even longer time.

We have no idea where this is going, but find ourselves preparing for a possible adoption. Messy lives and unknown futures are merely the backdrop to God’s story, and his story is all goodness and grace.

4 Comments

  1. Peggy
    Apr 6, 2010

    I love this post – thanks for sharing. I’ll be praying for y’all. Much Love to all of you.

  2. Kara
    Apr 6, 2010

    my in-laws adopted after having 6 of their own kids. it’s not crazy :) praying for y’all.

  3. Molly Tripp
    Apr 8, 2010

    We’ve talked about it. Recently John was interested in adopting a girl from Afghanistan, but the Muslim law doesn’t allow for adoption, only guardianship…

  4. Ken Schneck
    Apr 9, 2010

    Brother Jay:
    The Lord brought you to mind this evening, and reminded me of your blogsite. Your discussion of chronic pain and the concomitant outpouring of our Lord’s grace by which you can bear it, witnessed to my spirit. My infirmities pale in comparison with yours (and your father’s), yet at times I long to be able to get down on the classroom floor to demonstrate some science concept or experiment, and to be able to be the first one back to my third floor room after a fire or tornado drill! Not going to happen.
    Am sure you remember the times we shared on Kwajalein during your parents’ trips off-island. Besides the genetic foot disorder, I recall you also suffered with migraine headaches. Do you still have them? Anyway, it was abundantly clear to me even way back then that the Lord had great plans for you. Reading your comments, Tricia’s reasons for loving you, and seeing the photo journal of your children confirms that if you were left penniless tomorrow, you would still be one of the richest men on Earth.
    Next month, I’ll be 66; still teaching SpEd science mornings; serving as Moline Education Association president (519 teachers) afternoons and evenings. Still have a cat (no, not the same one), and a mom, who is 91 and sinking ever deeper into dementia. She still lives at home with the help of overnight caregivers and part time day caregivers who do housekeeping and cooking. My sister and brother (and their families) live in the quad cities area.
    Will retire from teaching in two years. Seems hard to believe I’ve been an educator 21 years. The Lord Jesus has been kind.
    In closing, Jay, just want you to know how proud I am of you. Will keep you in my prayers, and ask that you include me in yours. Remember this verse I had everyone in Sunday school memorize? I Corinthians 10:13: “No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man; and God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, so that you will be able to endure it.”
    Love to you, Tricia, and your children in Jesus’ Name.
    Your elder brother in Christ, and one-time occasional guardian,
    Ken

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