Friday, July 20, 2012

I never thought I'd end up here

“I never thought I’d end up here”, it’s a phrase spoken by recovering addicts, game-show contestants, lost drivers, and Olympic athletes.  I’ve said it myself more than a few times, and the phrase has been on my mind quite a bit lately.

So, I’m 25 and single.  I just moved into an new apartment, which I’ll be sharing with an 18 and a 19 year old.  I have a Bachelor’s Degree but am back in school.  I’ve been working at a gas station/liquor and tobacco store for 3 years.  I’m applying to Med School for 2013.  I’m overweight.  I’ve fallen in love with cycling.  I wear skinny jeans.  I’m in the middle of the fight to break free of my unhealthy manners of living.  There are many more things I could say about my current state of being and like the things listed above, some would be positive and others negative.  

I've been thinking a lot about where I’d like to be in the future: in a week, in a year, and in a decade.  I certainly don’t want to be 30 and still be single, still working at Tobacco Outlet Plus, still dealing with the same crises of life and faith, still living in Eau Claire, and still just talking about my plans for the future.  Unfortunately, the only motivation to pursue change lately has been that I don’t want things to stay the way they are.

Thoughts of the future are both exciting and intimidating.  I want to get married, have kids, be a pediatrician, serve people with my time and abilities, go on adventures, and start a revolution.  The mere thought of these things put a burning in my chest that is like no other.   They also scare the hell out of me at times when I think about they will require: time, effort, emotion, and sacrifice.

I want to say, “I never thought I’d end up here” on the heels of success, fulfillment, victory, peace, and accomplishment.  To do that I need to dream bigger, catch a vision of my future that will enthrall me, consume my thoughts, set my soul on fire, and inspire my actions.  Dreaming itself is an act of faith: daring to envision the man I am meant to be and the things I'm able to accomplish.

Pursuing those dreams is an even riskier endeavor.  It will be a journey out of my current state of comfort and confidence into great unknown.  It will be fraught with failure and opportunities to give up, settle, and deny the dreams ever existed in the first place.  It’s a ultra-marathon, not a sprint.  It will at times feel like it’s killing me, and in fact it might.

Will I dream big enough to make the struggle worth fighting, the journey worth taking?

Will pursue my dreams with unrelenting passion and commitment, regardless of personal cost? 

Will success and getting “what I want” ultimately be what matters or will it be that I committed to striving for something better instead of resigning to the current state of things? 

This conversation came to mind while I was writing this:

Gandalf:   You’ll have a tale or two to tell when you get back.
Bilbo:        Can you promise that I will come back?
Gandalf:   No.  But if you do, you will not be the same.
--Trailer for the upcoming movie The Hobbit

Monday, July 2, 2012


During my recent trip to Honduras I encountered different dialects of the two languages I speak: English and Spanish.  My difficulties, frustrations, and amusements in dealing with linguistic dialects paralleled my experience with the differences how faith in Christ was expressed by the people I met, lived with, and worked alongside of.

Linguistic differences were more entertaining than anything.  To be honest, it took me about a week to acclimate to the Spanish dialect of the area where I worked, and even then there were a few people I couldn’t understand at all.  Not understanding the slang used by locals led another interpreter to believe that there was someone going around one of the villages punching people in the head (“me pega la cabeza” is how they say that they have a headache).  Being from the Midwest adrift in a sea of Southern twang and parlance I felt the need to defend the way I said certain words in English, especially “bag”, “roof”, and “ice”.

The dialects of Christianity that existed in the locals and volunteers I met during my trip were as diverse as the dialects of English one would encounter in the International Terminal of Atlanta Airport.  I spent time with people who I would consider to be “ultra-conservative” (there was a point where I thought my head was going to explode if I had to sit through one more conversation about politics) and others who would be labeled “very liberal” (on one occasion the legalization of marijuana was being discussed over dinner).  While I am certainly more comfortable with the latter dialect of Christianity, as its closer to my own, I was able to understand and respect both ends of the spectrum.  

I need to remind myself that differences in faith, despite some of the frustrations they cause, don’t render others unintelligible or non-functional.  One of the many beauties of Christianity is the fact that we don’t have to vote the same way, read the same translation of the Bible, or agree on which substances are ok to use and which ones are not.  These are minor and unimportant issues that we devote too much of our time and emotions to.

What makes dialects mutually intelligible (and not separate languages) is that they share what’s ultimately important: not lexicons, grammar, or pronunciation, but an appreciation of the common ground shared and a commitment to understand one another.  The differences add variety, beauty, humor, and excitement.

As Christians we share the most important thing ever: Christ Himself.  Despite the differences in faith that I saw during my trip I saw God work in and through the volunteers uniting them in the common purpose of redeeming the world to what He intended it to be.