Symmetry and Redemption… Part 2

Although I regret that decision, I now realize that a life isn’t made of

the things we didn’t say…

the choices we didn’t make…

the risks we didn’t take…

Rather, it is made by the ones we did. I now realize that although I felt like I didn’t fit, and that there was something wrong with me… in fact, that couldn’t have been further from the truth. There was no need for me to ask permission to have the passions and talents I had. They were, and are, gifts from God… and that is a very good thing. However, the 19-year-old me didn’t know that… maybe couldn’t have known that. So I kept chipping away at the square edges, trying to fit into someone else’s understanding of how life SHOULD be lived.

Further disonance ensued because of football. Mid America has always been a thoroughly Midwestern college. At the time, this meant a strongly conservative bent to faith and life which, especially at the time, stepped across a line into legalism, in my opinion. The decision to begin a football program was very controversial with many of the financial supporters of the college, at the time. Many thought the college was losing what they believed should be the college’s focus: Educating Christian, Nazarene kids. The assumption behind this idea was that football players couldn’t or wouldn’t be Nazarenes/Christians. The feeling was especially apparent in the religion department at the time, or that was the perception of most of the players. There always seemed to be at least  a low level of mistrust, eventually wandering into periods of animosity, between athletes and religion majors.

Yet, I had a sincere love for God, or at least the god I knew at the time, and was also a football player.

Square peg… round hole.

Part of the problem for me, at least internally, was that I loved God, but also loved the wild boys! They were  my friends. They had my back, and I had their’s. We fought, bled, and played together. I chose them.

Dress…

In the Midwest of the early 1980’s, Preppies reigned supreme. In Colorado, the uniform at school was:

Levis 501’s…

a long-sleeved, long underwear shirt underneath a long-sleeved, flannel, buttoned shirt with sleeves rolled up…

Addidas, high-top tennis shoes, or hiking boots.

In KC, it was:

Levi 501’s… (Except because of the school dress code, you had to wear knit pants to class, and then break out the 501’s at dinner)

Polo, short-sleeved shirt with collar turned up under a pastel, button-down shirt with sleeves rolled UNDER…

Top-siders’ deck shoes, with no socks.

My initial style didn’t match, and it took me awhile to afford the uniform change.

Square peg… round hole.

Finances…

I was a poor, preacher’s kid in a place where money seemed to be king. And I didn’t know how to handle money.

Square peg… round hole.

Since I didn’t fit, I felt the problem was in some way ME. So I began  to try and change me, in order to fit in. I began to try to do what I perceived I was SUPPOSED  to do, and relinquished part of who I was. I stopped trying to carve out my own identity.

“So…” after over 30 years in the same area, an observant, refreshingly direct person might ask… “Why did you stay?”

I met a girl…

Honestly, that would only be a partial answer. The full answer is undoubtedly more complex… most assuredly so. Yet she was an important reason, a choice I made… we both made… which shaped our lives. She was 4 years younger than I, and we met in a choir trip over spring break, after my last year of football eligibility. We dated for a couple of years before getting married and, since she was from the KC metro area, we settled here. Although I would rather have lived in another location, like… Colorado… I honestly had no real direction, so I felt like keeping her close to her family was the best thing to do.

It’s what you’re SUPPOSED to do, isn’t it?

Actually, neither of us had any clue about our direction,

or even how to go about finding it,

or who we each really were,

or how we wanted to live,

or what we could live with,

 or what we couldn’t live with…

Honestly…. I thought we could figure out all these issues after we got married. Even MORE honestly… I wanted to get laid without feeling guilty… I mean… isn’t that what you’re SUPPOSED to do?

To make things more complicated, a year and a half after we got married, we had our first child. Our options seemed especially restricted at that point. Both of us were young and not really prepared for marriage, let alone parenthood. So much for the decisions about direction taking care of themselves… But… those were my choices… our choices… and it became our life.

The relationship was hard…

We could perform well together, yet not relate well together in important matters and decisions. There seemed to develop a power struggle between us about the way we each wanted to live. It was hard. We both struggled with living according to our own perceptions about the expectations of each other, and other people. Neither of us learned how to live independently before marriage.

We never:

cooked our own meals…

cleaned our own apartment…

developed our own budget…

found our own church…

chose our own career…

 learned who each of us were, seperately…

Greta (the girl) said she felt like she went from being one man’s daughter to being another man’s wife. Her identity was wrapped around another person… a man… rather than mined from her own soul.

My own identity was so wrapped up in football and the church (although my relationship and trust in the church was ambiguous at best) that when football was over, my friendships were gone. I then threw myself into ministry in the church as a layman. It became all I could think about. Greta eventually came to see the church as my mistress. She worked in the church, as well, but it was not her “home” as it had been mine.

Speaking of outward expectations…

Anyone working within the structure of the church, whether as a pastor, staff of the church, or layperson feels the sting of other’s judgements and expectations. Eventually, we both began to ask hard questions about the structures, expectations, and even beliefs as expressed through the collective, institutional rhythms of the church. While my intention was to engage the church more fully in order to be a voice for change, I think Greta wanted to disengage a little in order to live a slower, simpler life and seek God in other places. We were each seeking to find, and establish our identity and place… but going in different directions. I am pretty sure both of us felt growing frustration with the other’s chosen identity.

We had always been able to talk deeply about some things…

ideas…

music…

writing…

art…

But not about other things:

feelings…

finances…

areas of conflict…

It wasn’t working, but our stubborn committment to a marriage that was dying, even though it began poorly, was getting worse, and was dysfunctional for us both; kept us tied to what we were SUPPOSED to do and NOT SUPPOSED to do… which was divorce.

We weren’t a good fit, and it became apparent pretty early. Yet we lived with each other longer than with anyone else. We DID give each other good gifts of discovery about outselves. I believe I invested in her life an understanding of her own intelligence. She invested in me an understanding of my own creativity. And of course, our greatest gifts to each other, ourselves, and the world were those of Baird and Hannah. I have ambivalent feelings regarding the home we brought these two wonderful people into. I think we have tried to raise them to live their own lives, safe from the fear of  not meeting their parent’s expectations. We both love them unconditionally. We have encouraged them to pursue their independence and their passions. We hope they will come to know God’s love deeply. We also hope they see our attempts to forgive each other and begin to learn new ways of living, even as we enter the second half of life.

Kansas City has taught me many lessons I would’ve preferred not to learn. They are valuable, just the same. I have come to know God in a deeper way than ever before, and I realize that it might not have happened without the pain I experienced in this place. These lessons have also become a practical help to other people, as we become friends.

And there have been friends here…

Brian

Jamie

Chaya

Lyle and Jan

Rick

Chetan

Jeremy

Loy

Brad

Dave

Dennis

And my brothers from the MNU Pioneers.

Kansas City will have a special place in my heart because it is the hometown of my children. I am also proud of the city as it has continued to revitalize the inner-city in a way that keeps the architectural portraits of its history, while also building new, creative spaces which encourages the community creatives. I still love the downtown…

Broadway Cafe

The Plaza

Jacob’s Well

The Nelson/The Kemper/KC Art Institute

The Power and Light District

Union Station

The Western Auto Building

The Kaufman Center for the Performing Arts

The Crossroads District

Westport

I suspect I will someday lead an urban retreat in Kansas City. I fell in love with God here. I have lived here longer than anywhere else…

…and it is time to leave.

I am moving to Florida next week to work with my brother-in-law and sister. I will also be reunited with my mom, brother, and sister-in-law. my FOO- Family of Origin. It is an opportunity to get myself on my feet financially, and to reconnect with my heritage. Two words seem to echo in my heart and mind:

Symmetry and Redemption.

I will probably have more to say about these words in the future.

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