Monday, August 21, 2006

Measure in love....

Five hundred twenty-five thousand six hundred minutes,
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)
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)

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 now
There's only here
Give in to love,
Or live in fear -
No other path,
No other way,
No day but today...
God, may it be so - today, in my life, and in the lives of all with whom I come in contact. Amen.


Michael Dodd said...

No matter how far down the scale we have gone, we will see how our experience can benefit others.

We do not know what the fruit of your past three years may yet prove to be -- in the life of another person who will hear your tale and glean from it signs of God's grace for his or her journey.

The seeds that fall to the earth and never sprout do not simply disappear. They may decay, but they then become fertilizer for other life they never imagined.

I once dreamed of going on a mission to Arica, something that the circumstances of my life never let happen. But one of the most unlikely seminarians I helped train caught fire from my dream and became one of the founding brothers of my former community's Nairobi seminary. My best friend in the community -- who had no interest in Africa at all -- visited that mission at my enouragement, fell in love with it and now is head of a spirituality institute that trains church workers from all over English-speaking Africa. Did I do any of that? No. Did God use what I experienced as a failed dream to accomplish it? Perhaps. What does it matter how God's will is done, so long as I try to place no obstacles in its way.

Life is changed, not ended.

TN Rambler said...

You never know how your life, your thoughts, your experiences can affect another. Since stumbling across your blog in April '05, there have been several times that you have offered a word that encouraged me or inspired me or led me to dig deeper.

God has blessed us through you my brother.

Anonymous said...

God's ways are mysterious. We all go through life with its ups and downs like everybody else. It's whether we trust and put all our faith in God that makes a difference. As we walk with Him, we discover that He has never left us nor forsaken us.