It is going on two days since I’ve been outside and I don’t plan on breaking that streak. I’ve sat on a couch covered in a blanket looking at pictures. Opening the door today I felt a triple digit Arizona hand slap me across my face as my three beasts busted through the door to relieve themselves. I closed the door and went back to the couch.
My phone is set to “do not disturb”. My shades are drawn. My five o’clock shadow is entering midnight and I am perfectly fine with that.
That’s what is so strange about this time. I have literally pulled the plug on my life and yet I feel a firm foundation beneath my feet. I am not worried about anything. I have a million things that “need” to be done, but I am simply focused on breathing deep and staying present in my grief and memories and this moment.
There is an incredible peace in my life right now. It is the personification of a Bible verse that I’ve given to many other people. It was the words Jesus said to His friends when their world was falling apart. He said:
“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” John 14:27
It is truly a peace that surpasses all human understanding. And, I know that it is a peace that I have because of the many people who have surrounded me to help carry the burden. My amazing wife who was up at 5am making phone calls while I slept. My fabulous church body that is sending their prayers, thoughts and food in my direction. My friends and family who let me know that they are there… yet understand that the greatest gift that they can give me is to simply sit with me in this season… in this “Sitting Shiva”.
I know that this time will come to an end and I know that I will go back to life… but I don’t think that I can go back to life as it was. I don’t think that we ever can. Not if we are allowing ourselves to be changed through our grief.
I am changing. I know that I am.
I am viewing life through the rearview mirror and realizing how much I am missing in my life now. I accomplish and I do and I achieve and I win… but in winning, I lose.
I lose relationships because they take time to cultivate. I lose memories because they take planning to be achieved. I lose personal conversations to electronic chatter. I lose friends to accomplishments… moments to memories… and realize that which the world deems important is not important at all in the end.
Another degree from college will never mourn my death. An award will never be changed by my life. Another victory will never sit with me in silence as I mourn the one I love. But, you will.
People… this is all that really matters when it is all said and done. You, me, each other, us. And, just not in the good times or the convenient times… but when it is difficult and hard and ugly and takes work. When we don’t want to care about people is when we need to surround ourselves with others because people are really the only thing that matters.
As I flip through picture after picture of my “family” I realize how far away from them that I am. I have cousins that I only know through Facebook feeds. I have uncles and aunts that I don’t even send a Christmas card to. I have childhood friends that I haven’t called in decades. DECADES! Why?
Because I am busy.
Busy with what? “Trying to change the world” is what I tell myself. It is what I tell others. But, in all reality… the only way that I’m ever going to change the world is by investing in the people that are around me and then, one by one, WE can work to change the world together.
I had two best friends growing up. Neither have I talked to in a long time. One, because our lives went in different directions and the other because I selfishly chose a speaking engagement in Georgia over marrying he and his fiancé. Think about that! One relationship blown because of my sloth and the other because of my selfishness. Embarrassing.
I called one out of the blue the day after my dad died. He had just hung up with his dad ten minutes prior. His dad had told him the news. It was awkward. I just needed him to know… not that my dad was dead, but that I was sorry. I was sorry for the time that had passed and I was sorry for my selfishness and now, in my time of need… I was selfishly asking him to be there for me. Even though I wasn’t there when he needed me… I asked him to be there for me.
I was humbled.
He told me to stop apologizing. He told me he would be there. He told me that we had to let go of the past. He told me that we needed to pick up where we left off.
I know I can’t do that though. I don’t want to do that. I don’t want to pick up where we left off because that is the path that led us to where we are today. I want to start fresh. I want to begin anew. I want to be a real friend and care when there is nothing coming my way in return. I want to be part of his life. Because, I know that there will come a day when either he or I are going to be going through a box full of photos and I want the tears that we share to be tears of joy from the memories and love that we had for one another and not from the lost years that we missed from selfishness or pride.
And, I know that my dad would want it that way too.
My other friend texted me out of the blue yesterday. This is my first friend… my next door neighbor for my entire life. We played together every day growing up. High School happened and our lives just began to drift. We drifted back together for a small season in my early 20’s and then quickly parted… never to be reunited again. Fifteen years later… when he heard through the grapevine that my dad had died… he sent me a text.
“Hey. This is… Some of the earliest and best memories of my life involve you. I mourn the loss of your father with you as my brother in Christ.”
I never knew. I didn’t think I mattered. I didn’t think “we” mattered… anymore. But, I was wrong. Over 30 years later and he still cares. I have neglected our friendship for over a decade, but he still cared enough to reach out with love in a season of my pain. That is the kind of friend I want to be.
Storm clouds have surrounded me for the past three days, but these moments have been breaks in the dark clouds… they have been rays of hope peeking through the clouds to shine on me. Encouragement and love has come from people around the globe. Those lives that I have been honored to be part of. Those people that I have had the privilege of encouraging have become my encouragers… and they keep me lifted above the flood waters of grief.
My life will change.
This pain will pass and these moments will turn into distant memories, but the lessons that I’m learning will live on forever because I am demanding a change in my life because of them. I don’t want to be the same and I don’t have to remain in this same place… and neither do you.
Don’t wait for this. Don’t wait for a death or a sickness or a circumstance beyond your control to cause you to examine the real purpose of your existence. Are you fulfilling the best things in your life? Are you caring for the people that surround you or are you taking them for granted? Are you living for rewards or relationships?
If you allow yourself to invest in the latter… you may find yourself receiving the former. And, the rewards that follow relationships are so much better than anything that follows a dollar sign.
Thank you for sitting with me today.