Five hundred twenty-five thousand six hundred minutes,I wish you had the soundtrack to this show. It is so appropriate for this posting...actually, you can hear snippets of "Seasons of Love" A&B cuts here)
Five hundred twenty-five thousand moments so dear,
Five hundred twenty-five thousand six hundred minutes -
How do you measure, measure a year?
In daylights, in sunsets, in midnights, in cups of coffee
In inches, in miles, in laughter, in strife.
In five hundred twenty-five thousand six hundred minutes
How do you measure a year in the life?
How about love?
How about love?
How about love?
Measure in love...
("Seasons of Love," from the movie Rent)
August 22nd, 2003. Just after noon. A seventeen-foot yellow Hertz rent-a-truck and a '98 Camry pulled away from a duplex in suburban Shawnee, Kansas - destination, Chicago, Illinois. On board the two vehicles was every material possession and almost all of the hopes and fears of one past-middle-aged seminarian, accompanied by the prayers and well-wishes of several hundred of the Lutheran faithful of suburban Kansas City. The horizon seemed filled with dreams and possibilities...
Five hundred twenty-five thousand six hundred minutes later, the dream of ordained ministry was deferred - no, demolished. My mentor and encourager had died the day after the dream did, the money was gone, and it seemed I was unemployed and unemployable. Life, on the whole, looked pretty damn bleak.
Another half-million minutes passed, and the scenery was both brighter and darker still. Leaving the seminary grounds, abandoning even the possibility of using what I had thought were God-given talents, fighting back depression and hopelessness, and hanging onto sobriety like a man adrift clings to a life-raft. Finding a refuge on the far south side of the city, and spending another half-million minutes trying to find peace and acceptance in the midst of struggles of faith, hope, and finances.
Tuesday will be my third anniversary in Chicago - and the beginning of the end of my stay here. But as I look back on a million-and-a-half minutes in the Windy City, I can only do what the cast of Rent would have me do - measure my journey in love...
My own self-centered search for significance has beaten me up so badly over the last year, asking variations on these questions: Was it worth it? After all the money, all the time, all the laughter and all the tears, what is different? Will it matter that I have been here? Will anyone miss me when I am gone?
I think that's why seeing the movie version of Rent with my sister this weekend was such a blessing. The powerful messages of that movie were exactly the Gospel I needed to see and hear at this point in my journey. It's such a powerful reminder that my life is not measured in stuff, but "in daylights, in sunsets, in midnights, in cups of coffee / In inches, in miles, in laughter, in strife." And in love...
The community of recovery reminds me that the only lasting gift I have to share is my story, my truth, my love and my service. And it doesn't matter worth a damn whether anyone benefits from it, or even acknowledges it. It matters simply whether or not I offer it, to the glory of God and to the benefit of God's kids.
Perhaps the testimonies I shared in the short time I was active at seminary will bless some of my classmates on their journeys. I'm reasonably sure that the minutes that I spent in the rooms of recovery have blessed others. But who knows? Not I, for certain. Those are all in the hands of the One who can best deal with them....
The work week starts in five short hours. So as this milestone passes, I'm going to try very hard to focus on these simple words from Rent's conclusion:
There's only nowGod, may it be so - today, in my life, and in the lives of all with whom I come in contact. Amen.
There's only here
Give in to love,
Or live in fear -
No other path,
No other way,
No day but today...