For the normie world, choosing a creative career is nuts. Failure is the likely result. A creative will spend most of their years toiling in anonymity and suffering the slings and arrows of normie rejection for making such an absurd choice. “I’m going to earn my living as a writer,” said I. And the reply? “That’s not possible.”
Correct, for most of the world with a low tolerance for risk and misery. Not correct for us, the malcontents, crazies, and desperate My Dad was an electrical engineer whose Mom was an artist. He came from crazy and wanted quiet. My Mom was fiercely Christian and enjoyed the good fight for the downtrodden. So parts of my heritage are edge cases that have a crazy tolerance for misery and risk. I lived conflicted. While my Dad was alive I tried the low-risk, socially acceptable life. It was easier than failing to commit to this crazy act of faith calling myself a writer.
I did ok. My son is 28. His Taiwanese Mom and I are divorced. Tons of drama in those years. I won’t repeat it here. Here is the thing—I’m one of those that plays the left hand on 2 and 4. Also . . . my tolerance for risk and misery is uncomfortably high. Next, I’m old enough that many expect me to retire. By now I should have enough net worth that I can live on passive income. Well . . . dang.
I Choose, “That’s Impossible”
Yeah . . . so old man who lived conflicted, never really kept to a path, and now, no visible means of support. Repeating a bit. More Whack-A-Puter? Please no. Or please pay me stupid money. Driving? It’s not going well. Deliveries with Roadie pay about a third of what it costs to keep me housed and fed. Uncle Sam? Probably at some point. I’m still fighting so for now, no.
Whatever. Right? I’ve complained about this enough. The crazy thing is this: event horizons. I think the apocalypse is nigh. If something isn’t done RIGHT NOW!!! I’m done. Stick a toe tag on me. I thought that was true in April when Lyft dropped me. It’s June 2023 as I type this. My rent is paid. Now for the reason I started this post: God’s timing is crazy. While I am whining in prayer, afraid that it’s all going to fall apart again, God is good. He’s not worried.
Jesus says some crazy things in the four gospels. He sends the disciples out to proclaim the kingdom of God and to heal. They are to take nothing with them. His call to Matthew was to follow Him. But what about . . . a bajillion needful things to prepare for this? Is Matthew ready? We might say he isn’t. But Jesus was ready and that was enough.
I grew up Presbyterian–still am. We are the policy and governance specialists. Decisions are made by a committee and take forever. Aspects of our Constitution are influenced by Presbyterians. We also love to study and prepare. Our goto: “let’s read a book and do a Sunday School class on that,”—for endless decades.
We get around to things eventually. You just can’t be in a hurry with us. Oh . . . and . . . street preaching? Soup kitchens? We’ll do prayer services where we pray for healing. It’s nice. We do it in the sanctuary where it’s air-conditioned and the environs are designed to evoke spiritual feelings. Just don’t ask for it right now. We need to have your request in writing and then put it before a committee that will calendar it for some time next year when we do a sermon series on the Pentecost. Gotta love church pace.
רבי הלל, “אם אני לא לעצמי, מי יהיה לי? והיות לעצמי, מה אני? ואם לא עכשיו, מתי? Rabbi Hillel, “If I am not for myself, who will be for me? And being for myself, what am I? And if not now, when?” Jesus didn’t send Matthew to seminary to spend four years studying church governance on the promise of ordination once he was done. Matthew 9:8-10, “As Jesus passed on from there, he saw a man called Matthew sitting at the tax booth, and he said to him, ‘Follow me.’ And he rose and followed him.”
It’s called analysis paralysis. The design committee meets monthly for years arguing over mission, vision, purpose, WWJD, and the committee member who is having an affair with the pastor’s wife. At one point they are deadlocked on the question of whether the Oxford Comma is grammatically correct. The committee has to get the Request for Proposal correct. Meanwhile, the mortar in the rubble foundation of the church is crumbling and in danger of collapsing the building.
It’s not just church committees that do this. We dive down the rabbit hole of analyzing our blood chemistry, body mass index, blood sugar levels, aerobic fitness, and flexibility to assess our needs against what color of yoga pants are best for us. This goes on for years. We gain weight, become diabetic, lose the habit of breathing through our nose, and have our first heart attack in the meantime.
Sweat is Anti-Presbyterian
I’m not talking about faith, am I? Faith is the realm of the head. The heart and body have nothing to do with it. Follow Christ with your heart? That’s impossible. The heart and the body are sinful, right?
Wrong. We are mind, body, and soul. Discipleship isn’t just the five things: worship, tithe, study, pray, and serve (but only in the summer while on vacation). Discipleship is a way of life. WWJD extends to how we breathe. The habits of faith should be so much a part of our soul that we can’t not follow Christ.
Start. Fail, keep practicing and failing, failing and growing in your discipleship. Use the church and your brothers in Christ to teach you. This is the way. We are forgiven by grace so that we can grow in our emulation of Christ. Failure is part of the Way. You will never be ready enough. The plan will never be finished because we change and our needs change. You can’t plan away all of the risk and misery. Once you start there will be risk and misery. Start anyway.
From This Day Forward
Day one in the gym. Such an odd place. None of the exercise equipment makes any sense. Even the treadmills have complicated controls. Swim? The air in the pool hall stinks of chorine so bad you are afraid of an asthma attack just by the whiff of it you got when you peeked in. The yoga pants you chose are not the right color. So you make a safe exit and find the Dunkin Donuts around the corner.
It’s been a minute since you went to church. There is a hip-hop band. People greet you as if you are a longtime member and great friend. The music is loud and unrecognizable. The preacher is a zombie on meth. You don’t remember his words, just the shouting, jumping about, and jazz hands. Ninety minutes in you left. Fail? Maybe.
Both places are uncomfortable. They are temples to self-improvement. The church promises a close relationship with Christ and all the mysteries and miracles experienced by His disciples. You feel it–feel the need to improve, to follow Christ. But what about picking the right colored yoga pants? And is this it? Is this the right church for you? Should you buy a nicer shirt/blouse for worship?
Life by a Thousand Small Miseries
Ask a gym rat what their first month was like. Then their first year. I’ll wager that it began awful. They felt out of place, awkward, and unable to work out like the Muscle Beach guys and gals. Ditto choosing Christ. The early days suck. Be Anti-Presbyterian and sweat it out. Stick with it. You’ll get there.
I make starts. Follow through is where I fall apart. This time, unlike the last, last, last time, I’m out of starts. What’s left is this space. I should be worried. I’m not. Because that’s how the story goes. At the end, in the last desperate moments, when the audience believes the hero has lost and might die, something breaks his or her way and they emerge victorious. Every time I think I’m roached, out of hope, and destined for worse, something breaks my way and I get through it. I am that conquering hero.
Live those thousands of small miseries that move you closer to health and perfect discipleship. There will be wins and losses. The secret is to keep going.