Standing In The Gap Of The Real And Perceived
It’s been a tough week. Last Sunday, I was enjoying the worship band at my church. The next day, the bass player was killed in a car crash. Yesterday, millions of young men around the United States had wanted for 20 years to be Kobe Bryant. Today, January 26th, 2020, not so much. Bryant was 41 years old.
My dad, 77, has had his share of triumphs and tragedies. Right now, he’s wondering what to do with himself. He has regrets. But he’s here. I just spoke with him a few minutes ago. He didn’t tell me what I wanted to hear, but he picked up the phone today. That’s good.
When I was a boy, I had my own wishes, declarations of how little it would take to quell my petty jealousies. My dad, for all he lacked and all he missed and all he wanted, had a great answer for my musings about how nice it must be to be someone else.
“Be careful, son,” Dad said. “From where you are, the other guy’s life might look like what you’d want. But you’re only seeing a very small part of his life. You don’t know what the rest of it looks like. You don’t know what else is on his plate.
“Even if you could trade your life for his, you couldn’t just take the part you wanted. You’d have to take the whole package, the known and the unknown, including all of his problems. And the truth is, if we could live a few days in anyone else’s shoes, no matter what the benefits, we’d almost always want back our life with its problems, rather than someone else’s.”
Right now, I have big problems. Almost all of them are my babies turned monsters; I created them. But I also have people who love me and root for me, despite all of that; a relatively happy, healthy marriage of 27 years; two beautiful, growing children; an able, responsive body; obscenely more intelligence than wisdom; and a dizzying array of opportunities around me. All of this I tend to take for granted, as I do the God from Whom it all comes, Who, in addition, has offered me an honored place in His kingdom, starting now, forever. All in all, it’s a pretty big deal. On half a dozen levels, my life is the envy of 50,000,000 men in my country alone.
I’m 53 years old now. My bucket list is still getting bigger, not smaller. I have some catching up to do.
Materially, I have a negative net worth. The world still does not know my name. I have no endorsements, no specialty merchandise, no thriving YouTube channel. I can’t run fifty yards without heaving. My (emotional) heart has a big hole in it at the moment.
I imagine everyone else’s life package, including any I might have envied as a boy, includes the future. I don’t know what mine is. I’d like to think it’s a combination of the time I’m given and the beliefs I really hold.
But I know my past. And what I can say with confidence is that I didn’t die in a fiery helicopter crash at age 41. I’ve already lived a number of years on this Earth that many millionaires couldn’t buy. I have to believe that’s for a reason. If I wake up in the morning, perhaps I should fear nothing more than apathy, for every day, in time and breath, I have been given the world.