It’ll change your life …
In a world that notices only the extreme as noteworthy, and where everything in between is lost for attention, it’s something we hear more often than we really should.
Certain things give us new, yet often fleeting perspectives. We may alter habits for a time. Still, few things really, truly change our lives. These are seven things to which I can point that really have changed my life:
Unconditional Love. The moment captured in this photo changed life at my core. With Dana, I learned the lesson of unconditional love – that is love that exists above every other worldly thing. She is always there, always my partner, never wavering, committed, in spite of every screw up or crazy idea or thoughtless inaction I may impose on our relationship. She stands solidly with me, and I never wonder about it. There’s incredible freedom in that love. It opens up a world that allows me to be me. And knowing that kind of love on earth teaches us a lot about God’s love for us all. As close as can be, it replicates His love, and it’s exactly why the marriage covenant is so important. He chose that relationship above all others to represent His love for the church. Knowing Dana brought me closer to God. I’ve written before that when I see Dana, I see Jesus.
My Father’s Death. If you read the “About” page on this site, toward the bottom you’ll see a time I note as a personal defining moment. It happened in the last 10 days of a hospital stay when my dad ultimately passed away. Without many details, toward those final days, Daddy asked for a baptism. The church pastor who showed up refused the ceremony (and that’s all baptism is, by the way) because the environment and circumstances didn’t permit him to conduct a “full immersion” baptism. His doctrinal belief about water trumped the circumstance of a dying man’s request. For years, I let this radically (and wrongly) affect my view of the organized church. The anger persisted more than two years and I mostly stayed away. I’ve come to realize, however, it was a man’s misjudgment, and I choose to believe it wasn’t in the character of the gospel church – not by way of the bible I read, anyway. Because of it all I see church now for what it really is – a gathering of imperfect people doing their best. I’m at peace with church now, and it has newfound importance for me.
Latin America. In 2012, Dana and I committed a part of our lives to Ecuador. More than any other thing, our time there shapes my understanding of a world beyond Arkansas. Wherever I am today, I’m better because of the time we spend there. Ecuador is my healing ground, and everyone needs a place like that.
The Recession. In 2009, I was still young and inexperienced enough not to see it coming. Mostly because I’d never seen anything like it before. It was beyond my comprehension that you could make lots of money one day, and the stream could completely dry up the next. Just vanish. That time reshaped my understanding about the purpose we have for our own life, versus God’s purpose for us.
Depression. That’s exactly what followed the recession. About four years of it. Chronic, deep, dark, and void. I never really thought I’d see the other side of it. After a slow, one-day-at-a-time recovery from depression, there was a moment that changed my life, and I can’t pinpoint exactly when, but my personal mission completely changed. All I wanted was a knowledge of the truth. It’s core to my purpose now and I reject time spent in any other realm. Truth is nothing to be self-righteous about, but worthy of every pursuit.
Pilgrimage. I went to the Camino de Santiago last year for multiple reasons, and even with certain expectations and assumptions, almost none of which were true. In the months prior to departure I read volumes of material and engaged in conversations with pilgrims who’d gone before. So much of the thematic message was that pilgrimage would “change my life.” It did, and yet it didn’t. I found the pilgrimage experience, rather than change, made me much more of who I already was. It confirmed for me that I’m headed down the right path. Ultimately, pilgrimage helped me reclaim my life’s calling. It’s another place where I’ve found so much freedom.
Understanding Labels. It’s probably the most recent life-changing revelation I’ve had, relative to my faith, and corresponds with my philosophy about truth. Just a short time ago, it was polite to avoid labels because of the stereotypes it projected. That’s less a concern now since we’ve entered into a new time where word definition perceptions evolve and change with a new acceleration. It’s a complicated explanation for how it all happens, but words are shifting “genres.” By and large, “evangelical” is no longer a religious word. Rather, it’s a political word, and in the process, it’s become misconstrued. Same with “church,” and “christian” and so on. It’s about commercialism as well. Just because a book rests on the “christian” shelf at your local bookstore – well, that doesn’t make it necessarily so. It’s a tough predicament for a word guy. As words and labels evolve I find almost no descriptors for who I am.
Because of it all I think it’s never been more important to know what we believe, and why.
Maybe my best descriptor is “ragamuffin.”
It’s the title of a favorite biographical movie, and finds definition when a mentor shares its meaning with songwriter Rich Mullins, who died in 1997.
Ragamuffin – a ragamuffin knows he’s nothing more than a beggar at the door of God’s mercy.
I’m okay with that.