I had a birthday over the weekend, and I was reminded of a funeral joke. (OK, so this is a little weird, but hang with me for a moment.) Here’s the joke:
Three older guys are talking about what they would like the minister to say at their funerals.
“Well,“ says the first man, “I hope the minister stands in front of my casket and tells everyone that I was a good man who loved his family.”
The second man says: “I hope the minister stands in front of my casket and tells everyone that I tried to inspire others with my life.”
The third man thinks for a moment.
“I hope the minister stands in front of my casket and says, ‘Wait, look! He’s still moving!’”
Yeah, bad joke. But it touches on something important nonetheless.
We need to keep moving.
No great theological revelations today. No tear-jerking finale. No big mortal lesson. Just another step in a journey of a lifetime. ...
We’ve been in San Francisco the last couple of days, which is one of my favorite cities in the world. Driving here definitely hikes my blood pressure, but the sights, culture and food makes up for it.
Mostly we’ve continued to walk as much as possible. We’ve covered several miles every day, but my feet are evidence of the change of routine. Several blisters have emerged where there should just be calluses, and my plantar fasciitis decided to rejoin me in my heels after a brief, but welcome, sabbatical.
We just passed through Death Valley (insert 23rd Psalm joke here) and we’re about 100 miles from the edge of the world, also known as Los Angeles.
As my mind wandered while scanning the dunes and scrub brush, I started thinking back to the stories about my dad when he left home. As soon as he was old enough, he headed west with his mind full of images of the California orange groves. Coming from a small town outside of St. Louis, California might as well have been a world away, but he was resolved to get there, despite no plans for when he got there.
The whole point was just to get there. That, and to get away from his life in the Midwest. California still represented an escape from the mundane, a mecca of second chances, an eden of new beginnings…
We headed west toward Las Vegas this morning; chasing daylight toward the coast, leaving the kids in the care of grandma and grandpa.
I’ll give you one guess to figure out which one of us had a harder time leaving.
Personally, I know they’re safe at the farm, and they’ll have a lot more fun there than they would with us, driving a couple thousand miles over the next two weeks. Of course I’ll miss them, but I’ve also been looking forward to some “grown-up” time for a while. More specifically, this trip is not something most people ever get to do, let alone parents of two young kids.
And before we get to Portland and take our positions in the Big Kid Church, this is our chance to be a little bit irresponsible and childish. We can stay up late if we want. I can eat 12 Slim Jims for lunch if the mood strikes— though to be honest, the white stuff you squeeze out of those things turned me off of Slim Jims decades ago.
But I could if I wanted.
We’ve invested eight years of our lives into this community called Milagro Christian Church (Spanish for “Miracle”). As we have said many times before, it has our DNA throughout it. Our story is Milagro’s story. Our struggles and breakthroughs have been Milagro’s struggles and breakthroughs.
And now the paths are diverging, and although it’s exciting and necessary, there’s a part of it that really sucks.
It turns out that packing all the belongings you need for at least three months into the back of a Prius is a challenge. Of course, being a guy it’s the kind of challenge that makes life worth living. Anyone who has ever been a Tetris junkie can appreciate the exhilaration of fitting forty-seven differently shaped items into a space made for about half the volume. Yes, I had to jump up and down on the back hatch, and several keepsakes are undoubtedly smashed beyond recognition. But by God, I got it all in there.
While I was basking in the glory of being a master packer, my family was busy feeling. Amy kept up her “four cries an hour” regimen, while three-year-old Zoe melted down whenever she realized this toy or that piece of furniture was not going with us after all. It’s a strange feeling, leaving most of our valuables behind, but for me, it’s kind of liberating. I love the idea of grabbing what I can carry and heading west until I reach the edge of the earth.
Apparently my family doesn’t share the same romantic bug. They like stability.
“This is the longest I’ve ever lived anywhere,” said Amy, wiping tears aside. “This is home.”
“Yeah, but we’re taking home with us,” I said, trying in vain to employ the typically male strategy of emotional deflection.
“Taking it where?”
Last Sunday, we looked around the sanctuary, every seat filled, smile mixed with tears, and each one bearing a story about how they got there and why they stayed. Stories of recovery from addiction, healing in its many unexpected, mysterious forms, lost hope resurrected by a community of faith who loved them through it. It was beautiful.
And then we said goodbye and left.
It seems like all we’ve been doing lately. To friends, family, and even those people who acted heartbroken that we’re moving on, even though we don’t exactly remember being friends with them. turns out some people feed on the drama of “goodbye” like it’s some strange narcotic. Reminds me of Helena Bonham Carter’s character in Fight Club who got off on other peoples’ misery in an endless chain of twelve-step groups she crashed.