Recently I was asked how I’m doing and why I haven’t written much of late. After thinking about it for a moment I reached back into my vocabulary and dusted off this word:
Initially I blamed my listlessness on the fact that we had just endured a draining ninety days from March through May. During that time both boys began their respective baseball seasons, my wife underwent major surgery followed by a delicate recovery period, and graduation and a graduation party loomed ahead in May. April brought more baseball, a prom, and graduation planning. And in May I frantically worked to finish up landscaping in the yard, more planning, more baseball, and finally the big events themselves at the same time that my oldest son’s team went on a roll that culminated with them winning their second state championship in three years.
So yeah…June is a time to exhale. Maybe I still am. The month is only half-over after all.
But I’m also numb. And as I watch the events around our country and world spiral out of control while nurtured on by the policies of our current government I grow tense. With the realization that there’s little I can do about it (and being as tired as I am) I shut down. The alternative is to froth at the mouth in angry rage. (That would be the hysterical fanaticism mentioned in the above image.) Rage at the things being done as a result of this government’s policies. Rage at those who voted for it twice while at the same time saying that those who didn’t were on the wrong side of history. Rage at their now being strangely silent. And I wonder: are they silent because they are embarrassed, silent because they are afraid of admitting they were wrong, or silent because deep down they agree with the nation-destroying actions of the man they helped elect twice?
So while numb and wanting to avoid having my blood pressure so high that my eyes bleed I have chosen to stay quiet and listen. Not to the news, social media or the like. But to God and what He is saying for me to hear if I quiet myself and listen. And it is working.
In many ways I’m ready to retire and do some traveling with my wife. Instead I find myself with a suddenly open calendar and time on my hands looking for projects to do. I’ve considered constructing a gazebo in the back corner of our yard, building a second level to the deck, paving a patio extension and firepit area, and building a doghouse. And that’s just in July and for the outside of our home.
But I realize that I’m looking to fill my time and my space with things. My oldest son’s time at home is nearly spent and soon he’ll leave and a hole will exist where he was. Life as we’ve known it and our family’s dynamic since the birth of our daughter will change as he leaves. Son #2 will move into the recently-vacated bedroom downstairs and my daughter plans the complete redecoration of her own room.
“I’m going to paint it pink, purple, red and white Dad.” It’s going to look like a unicorn exploded in there, but I’ll love it.
So I’m looking to fill a hole in my heart with things. Same as it ever was. However, I’ve been around this block already and recognized this road. This is why I’ve stopped all of it and am listening. Stopped all the planning and researching. Because I can’t retire yet. We can’t travel unfettered as we wish or spend all our time accumulating things. We still have two more children to provide for and raise. My work continues.
Because of this my time is spent reading, praying, and listening.
In other words I’m working on filling this hole in my heart with more of what, or who, should be there in the first place. While enjoying the cool spring/early summer days I’ve spent more than a few mornings and evenings sitting outside in conversation with God. I’m listening. Listening to God’s voice in the psalms and prayers of the Divine Office and in the Gospels themselves.
I’m also reading a book that I inadvertently left off my summer reading list. I first attempted to read The Ragamuffin Gospel by Brennan Manning over ten years ago but quit half-way through. It was brought to mind recently when I watched the movie Ragamuffin: The True Story of Rich Mullins. (As an aside, I plan to write a review of this movie soon. Rich Mullins was, and still is, one of my favorite singer/songwriters. This movie reminded me how much I miss him since his death in 1997.) Unable to locate my original copy of Brennan’s book two weeks ago, I went to Barnes & Noble and purchased another. I’ve been reading it and highlighting it non-stop ever since. Here are but three of the many selections I highlighted within the first chapter alone:
And Grace calls out, You are not just a disillusioned old man who may die soon, a middle-aged woman stuck in a job and desperately wanting to get out, a young person feeling the fire in the belly begin to grow cold. You may be insecure, inadequate, mistaken, or potbellied. Death, panic, depression, and disillusionment may be near you. But you are not just that. You are accepted. Never confuse your perception of yourself with the mystery that you really are accepted. – page 28
We want ever-sharp spirituality—push, pull, click, click, one saint that quick—and attempt to cultivate a particular virtue at a given point in time. Prudence in January, humility in February, fortitude in March, temperance in April. Score cards are provided for toting up gains and losses. The losses should diminish if you expect to meet charity in May. Sometimes May never comes. For many Christians, life is a long January. – page 31
In essence, there is only one thing God asks of us—that we be men and women of prayer, people who live close to God, people for whom God is everything and for whom God is enough. That is the root of peace. – page 46.
That is the peace I’m looking for. It can’t be found in social media, the news, the opinions of others or in a gazebo. It is found in prayer. It is found in communion with God. God is enough.
Moses spent forty years in exile before going back to Egypt to demand that Pharaoh let his people go. Israel then spent another forty years wandering in the desert before they were allowed entry into the promised land. Jesus spent forty days being tempted in the desert before launching his ministry three years prior to his death and resurrection.
I’m forty-six. I’ve wandered a long time. Much of that wandering was aimless and without purpose.
I’ve had my long January. I’m listening with purpose and know that action will follow while on this road. Action with a purpose.
I am a ragamuffin.