First things first: Happy Birthday, Eliot McKenna!! Our baby girl turned six years old on July 14th! May the next six years be every bit as amazing as the first six, Darlin’!
Now, onto the post…..
“Life is either a daring adventure, or nothing.” Helen Keller
I’ve been feeling pretty restless lately which for me is not terribly uncommon, but it is a noteworthy feeling nonetheless. And by “restless” I mean agitated, aggravated, like nothing I am doing or am about to do is quite right or satisfying…lack of focus, difficulty in being present in the moment, any moment. You may have a different word to describe feeling, I call it being restless.
As you know by now and as many of you also often feel – we’ve got a lot going on right now. The babies and Little Miss Sunshine keep me busy enough, but between work and filming and trying to maintain a vibrant and lively marriage with my beautiful Casey Ann, you would think I have enough going on to keep me from feeling this way. I do all that I can to be a devoted father, a caring husband, an earnest student (of life!), and an ambitious businessman and I think I’m doing pretty well. Yet there it is again….
It’s like the wheels are spinning, but they have not yet grabbed hold of the solid ground lying somewhere beneath the treads. For those of you who pray often, it is the feeling you get when the only impact your daily prayers seem to have is to fill the room with noise as they echo their way right back to the ears on your own head. Or maybe it’s the feeling you get when the book you’re reading is just not grabbing you and pulling you in, the newest bachelor is falling for the wrong woman, and your favorite star just got voted out of the next dance…and all of this happens on the same day, the next day bringing just as much discontent as today. Things aren’t necessarily going badly, but they are definitely not working out the quite like you expected them to and for some reason no one is getting the message you are broadcasting, no one…including the broadcast-er…
So what is the message in this meandering restlessness? What is it that I am missing or better yet, what is it that Christ is trying to tell me?
I told you that this feeling is not all that uncommon for me, but I also said that it is a noteworthy feeling. It took me awhile to figure this out, but when I finally discovered the reason for this feeling, this agitation, my whole world was changed. In fact, it took me most of my life up until this point, but I finally know just what is happening when nothing seems to be happening at all. I started to take note of other feelings that accompanied this surge of unrest, I started to listen more intently to the world around me…and finally I began to notice that the reason nothing else in my world seemed to be just what I wanted it to be was because…
…it is at these very moments when Christ wants my attention somewhere else entirely.
No, it’s not that he wanted me to stop being a devoted father, a caring husband, an earnest student (of life!), or an ambitious businessman – those things were clearly charted by his hand and I do not believe I am ever being called away from them…not in this lifetime, at least. But notice a common theme among the life purposes I just mentioned – father, husband, student, businessman. Do you see it – the common thread? It is not an obvious theme, but it is, I believe, a very important one to understand – selfishness.
That’s right, I said it and I’ll say it again: being a devoted father and a caring husband and carrying out all of the other “responsibilities” of manhood are in many ways selfish pursuits. And that is the message that I believe Christ wants me to understand in these times when I am restless, agitated, and aggravated. Think about it for a minute – what do I get from being a father, husband, businessman, etc. and from being the very best of those things that I can be? Am I reviled at work for my family focus? Am I bombarded with objections by my family for being a good businessman? Of course not! The payoff to being a great husband is having a loving, generous, energetic, and respectful wife. For being a great dad, I get darling daughters who adore me and a son who lights up when I walk in the room – both of which are in strong competition for the best feeling in the world! And of course we all know what kind of pay comes with being a great businessman. On the flip side, what do I get when one or all of these things are out of line and I am not being the husband, father, businessman I should be? The answers are easy enough – a wife who finds it hard to love, children who may or may not care about your presence in their life, and all of the stress and frustration that comes along with failed business endeavors. In my time, I’ve experienced many of the frustrations arise from not giving my all to those things that so completely deserve it. Believe me, you do not want to go there…
Ok, ok – so maybe saying that being all I can be as a husband/father/businessman is a selfish pursuit is putting it a bit harshly. But let me put it another way and see if more of you agree. What would you think of me if I were not all of those things or worse, not even trying to be? Would you cut me some slack? Would you say it’s ok because I have so much going on? In this hyper-judgmental world we live in, would my failures escape the specter of public criticism? Now do you see where I’m coming from?
Here’s my point: doing everything I can do to be the best husband, father, businessman, and Christian that I can be is simply the buy-in at the game of the life God calls us to. These things are a baseline, the cost of admission, the minimally acceptable standard by which I can live my life. Period. Anything less is not acceptable. Of course mistakes will be made and the course may need correction from time to time, but the bottom line is that doing these things is the absolute…well, bottom line.
There was a time when I was not the best husband I could be. Like many young married men I sputtered when learning the lessons of giving my life to another. Putting my “self” aside for the sake of “us” was a tough ante to pay…and as a result, we struggled in our marriage. There was also a time when I let my own ambitions get in the way of my pursuit of perfect parenting. And there have certainly been times when my job did not get my best and Christ seemed to get whatever was left at the end of it all, which was usually nothing or at most not much. And it was during these times that I owed it to myself, to my wife, to my family, and to Christ to do all that I could do…
...to dismantle and discard everything in my life that stood in the way of me becoming the best husband, father, businessman, and Christian that I could be.
And so I did that, we did that as a family…and things changed, dramatically so, for better and forever. What you have seen from me and from us the last couple of years are the result of those efforts and have been in many ways the apex of what we have tried to accomplish in our marriage, with our family, and in our pursuit of faith in Christian living. It has been unimaginably good in so many ways and we believe things will only get better as we continue the pursuit. We believe that the last couple of years has only been the first of many apex’s we will conquer in this life.
So now what? Can I check the box and simply go off on whatever trivial pursuit catches my interest for the time being? If so, I’ll see y’all on a mountain somewhere in Colorado trying to be the best skier I can be…I could totally live the ski bum life!!! Oh, but wait – that’s not the way it works, is it? No, it isn’t. The responsibility of being who I am – the joy (mostly) and the pain (not to be denied) of it – will always be with me as long as I live. Consider it the price of admission to life, our life, love it or hate it (bet you can guess which one it is for me!), this is our life. But is this all there is, not that this is a bad thing or that it isn’t enough, but is there anything more? Is there anything outside of these “selfish” pursuits that Christ is calling me to?
And that is when we come back around to this feeling, this restlessness…..
So here is what I believe it means, this is my theory. In a sense, learning how to be a great husband, father, etc. is sort of like learning how to be a great musician. You work hard, you struggle, you push yourself, you practice, you try every little trick in the book, you walk away, you come back more committed, you push, push, push. And then one day you realize you’re there…maybe not all the way there (not sure that you ever are), but you find yourself exactly where you envisioned you would be when you first began. And it feels good, really really good…great even. You find yourself in a zone where you instinctively know what to do and how to do it, where to go and how to get there. Sure, some days are better than others and it is certainly possible to drift very far off course. But there is a knowledge and a skill base that is always with you, no matter how far you may wander from the days when you practiced for hours on end in your efforts of becoming great.
But now that I have found myself here, now that the foundation has been established and firmly set in place, why the restlessness? Why the agitation and frustration? Whatever happened to enjoying the fruits of victory? I think the simple answer is that in this life you can never truly declare victory and that the inevitability of change in life’s weather will necessitate repair and refocus on the foundation that has been laid. But I also think there is another answer to this question. I believe the restlessness could also be God’s call to do more and to look outside of this comfortable, happy little world that he has helped us create and do whatever it is that we can do to make someone else’s life a little more manageable, comfortable…victorious.
And that is why I love that quote above, the one by Helen Keller – “Life is either a daring adventure, or it is nothing.” It may sound a little cheesy or strange, but I would absolutely describe my life as daring and adventurous. I have no real sense of what tomorrow may bring and I love that about the life I’ve been given. But at the same time, I know deep in my soul that Christ expects great things of me, us, and each of you reading these words today. And that is why I believe I feel so restless lately…I am not at this very moment living up to the expectations of Christ’s calling. God wants more than the price of admission – he will gladly accept that when it is ready to be offered – but do not think for a minute that he is going to send you off on a luxury cruise for the remainder of your days. No, I do not believe that is how he works…sorry, Charlie.
So we have started something which I believe will ease the restlessness stirring in my soul. Unfortunately I cannot say what it is because it very well may end up on your TV screen one of these days, but the treads have begun to grab hold. We are taking small steps as we learn how to walk in this others-focused world, but I believe that there will be a day when these very small steps will have proven themselves to be a lot bigger than we now give them credit for.
If you cannot use those words I used to describe your own life – adventurous, daring, bold, dynamic – I encourage you to discover why that is and ask Christ to lead you away from the mundane and into the daring life he calls all of us to live. I believe that life for all of us is a thing to be pursued and that in this pursuit we will all discover the bold, daring life that Christ has been waiting for us to find all along. Feeling restless today? Maybe it’s time for you to jump in and join the fight. Maybe it is time for your own pursuit to begin. Pursue life……it’s what we were all created to do!