I'm often tempted to delete my archives. I look through some of my old posts and cringe. Many people Google certain phrases and make it to some of my "early works." When my Site Meter tells me this I wish they would include a phone number so I could call my random visitor and say "Look, that thing I wrote back in '03, that was a bunch of crap. Make sure you look at my newer stuff."
But then again, these things I write have a very short shelf life even with me. I can look back on something I've written even a few months ago and think to myself how ancient it sounds.
But I did dig up this old thing that brought back a lot of memories and tears. It was from the end of March, three years ago. (Notes: 1.)I let some of the typos and grammatical mistakes remain. 2.) Please see the footnote at the end when you finish.)
March 31, 2004
A Letter I Wrote to Jude.....
Last night, some 20 months after the day you were born, I found myself once again at your house looking after you and Sutton and Avery while your dad took your mom out for her birthday. We had a fun time playing and reading books and watching Mr. Rogers. Sometime during the evening the neighbor kids came to visit with their grandmother, who was also babysitting them. Caught up in the neighborly moment we all found ourselves walking next door to visit. Avery ran ahead of all of us with her friend, Sutton walked with me holding my hand, and you were somewhere in between. As we made our way into the garage, Avery and her friend disappeared in the house while you were left exploring on your own. You walked through the door and into the living room. Eventually Sutton and I, in our fat-boy gingerly manner, made it into the house. One second I saw you in motion roaming the house, and the next you stopped to look around. Very quickly panic set in and you realized you didn't know where the hell you were. When this happened you panicked, began to cry, and ran as fast as you could to my arms. (One day you'll be able to deconstruct this entire letter and figure out that a lot of my reasons for writing this are to express how good I feel about myself that you knew me well and felt that I was a safe place to run. When you figure that out, please don't judge me too harshly.) You didn't run like you normally run, like when we are playing, with short and choppy steps. You had the stride of an Olympic sprinter. (Perhaps one day you will become an Olympic sprinter and this letter will make it into NBC's coverage of your gold medal performance. But please don't think I'm putting undo pressure on you to be an Olympic sprinter. A discus thrower will do.)
Outside I was laughing because you were so damn cute. But inside I felt your fear; because it's a fear you will likely face many more times in your life. It might be in a specific place at a specific time, like at a party or in a class or in a hospital room or even in a religious service. Or it may be in a general period of your life like when you finish high school or when you've been in a career for a while, or when you are facing old-age, like your dad is now. (That was a joke more intended for him than you. He's only in his early thirties as I write this. You'll see the humor when you're in your early thirties.) However and whenever it happens, you will realize that the place you are in is not familiar and not where you belong. It's even a little, or perhaps a lot, scary.
This is the first time I¡¦ve ever told this story to anyone. One night, some 20 years after the day I was born, I found myself in the middle of a religious service that was very scary for me. Much like your inquisitive entrance into a strange house, I found myself drawn into a particular church that seemed interesting. It was different from the tradition I had grown up in, so I naturally thought it was better. (Deconstruction will also bring more understanding into this. I'm sure there'll be a different word to describe it by then.) I barreled into that place like nobodies business. And then this particular service occurred where things began to happen that didn't seem right. I didn't think they were wrong, just not right. And I got scared. Extremely scared. But I had no one to run to, because everyone in the room seemed to be very comfortable with what was going on. But still, I ran. I left the building (it was a school) and ran out to the woods. Some 20 years after I was born I could actually run pretty fast. If I said I ran somewhere yesterday, run would be a metaphor for moving. But again, that humor will make more sense when you're older. I sat amongst the trees and you know what I did? I cried. I cried much harder than you cried last night. And much longer. My estimate is that I cried solid for at least an entire hour. Your brother Sutton can cry for an hour like a professional, but he's still just a baby. I was twenty.
And I prayed. I cried and I prayed. Actually, and this was the first of many times this has happened in my life, my cries became my prayers. I wanted God to tell me why I felt so scared. I wanted God to explain why everyone else felt so good about what I was so scared of. I wanted to feel God.
And you know what? I did feel God. I felt the breeze going through the trees, and I knew it was God talking to me. I don't think God made the breeze just for my benefit. It was a cool windy day long before I got scared. In retrospect I think that at that point God was trying to communicate to me that what was going on inside the building was how some people understood him, and it wasn't up to me to place or take away value from that. But out there in the breeze, in the quiet, in the open places that are more suitable to be experienced alone or with a small group of friends, that's where God will show up in my life.
I loved the people in that church service. I still do. In fact I spend every Christmas with one of the families that was a part of all that. But they're not the people I typically run to with long strides and tears on my cheek when I get scared.* (This running is also metaphorical. As well, sometimes, are the tears.) I run to my friend Jason who listens better than anyone else I know in the world. I run to my friend Blake who allows me to be quiet in his presence. I run to my friends Wesley and Tracey who know how to care. I run to my friend Robert who makes me laugh so hard it hurts, and who isn't afraid to say "I love you" in a genuine manner at the most random times. I run to Ben who understands the mystical, spiritual, existential value of snow cones and Bush's chicken with friends better than anyone, even if he has a hard time spelling existential. I run to your mom and dad who perform the all important task of understanding me and making me feel I belong. And I run to you and your brother and your sister who constantly gives me the most joyous joy I could ever experience, and who let me spoil you with extra snacks when your parents aren't looking.
My sincere desire is that you will find people who mean as much to you as all these people mean to me. That every time you enter a place that doesn't seem right, you will always have someone to run to, just as you ran to me last night. And when you find that, know that it's not an accident. Those people, in a very real way, are Jesus to you.
My guess is that you will have no problem finding people to run to. But always remember there are people who are in scary places who have no one to run to. Be that someone to them.
And when you're on the podium accepting your gold medal, remember me.
posted by Craig @ 11:36 PM
* This is in reference to TONY and MELISSA. For several years my contact with their family was a once every twelve months occurrence. As the years passed and I came to realize how special and important they are to me, I've tried allow our friendship to flourish more. At this point in time I'm very likely to run to them when things make me scared. My life is exponentially better for having them in it.