NEW CASTLE — “God loves us where we are, so we don't have to pretend to be farther along than we are today.” — Darren Patrick
If you really knew me, you would know ...
I am disappointed with myself.
I am not disappointed so much with particular things I have done as with aspects of who I have become.
I have a nagging sense that all is not as it should be.
Some of this disappointment is trivial. I wouldn’t have minded getting a more muscular physique. I can’t do basic home repairs. So far I haven’t shown much financial wizardry.
Some of this disappointment, I know, is worse than trivial — it is simply the sour fruit of self-absorption. I attend a high school reunion and can’t choke back the desire to stand out by looking more attractive or having achieved more impressive accomplishments than my classmates. I speak to someone with whom I want to be charming, and my words come out awkward and pedestrian.
But some of this disappointment in myself runs deeper. When I look in on my children as they sleep at night, I think of the father I want to be. I want to create moments of magic, I want them to remember laughing until the tears flow, I want to read to them and make the books come alive so they love to read. I want to have slow, sweet talks with them as they’re getting ready to close their eyes. I want to sing them awake in the morning.
I want to chase fireflies with them, teach them to play tennis, have food fights and hold them and pray for them in a way that makes them feel cherished.
I look in on them as they sleep at night, and I remember how the day really went: I remember how they were trapped in a fight over checkers and I walked out of the room because I didn’t want to spend the energy needed to teach them how to resolve a conflict. I remember how my daughter spilled cherry punch at dinner and I yelled at her about being careful as if she’d revealed some deep character flaw. I yelled at her even though I spill things all the time and no one yells at me. I yelled at her — to tell the truth — simply because I’m big and she’s little and I can get away with it.
And then I saw that look of hurt and confusion in her eyes, and I knew there was a tiny wound on her heart that I had put there, and I wished I could have taken those 60 seconds back.
I remember those nights when I didn’t have slow, sweet talks, but merely rushed the children to bed so I could have more time to myself. I’m disappointed.
And it’s not just my life as a father. I am disappointed also for my life as a husband, friend, neighbor, and human being in general.
I think of the day I was born, when I carried the gift of promise, the gift given to all babies. I think of that little baby and what might have been: the ways I might have developed mind and body and spirit, the thoughts I might have had, the joy I might have created.
I am disappointed that I still love God so little and sin so much. I always had the idea as a child that adults were pretty much the people they wanted to be. Yet the truth is, I am embarrassingly sinful. I am capable of dismaying amounts of jealousy if someone succeeds more visibly than I do. I am disappointed at my capacity to be small and petty.
I cannot pray for very long without my mind drifting into a fantasy of angry revenge over some past slight I thought I had long since forgiven or some grandiose fantasy of achievement. I can convince people I’m busy and productive and yet waste large amounts of time watching television.
Where does this disappointment come from? A common answer in our day is that it is a lack of self-esteem, a failure to accept oneself. That may be part of the answer, but it is not the whole of it, not by a long shot.
The older and wiser answer is that feeling of disappointment is not the problem, but a reflection of a deeper problem — my failure to BE the person God had in mind when He created me. It’s the “pearly ache” in my heart to be at home with the Father.
Truth be told, I did not write the previous paragraphs. Instead, I stumbled upon this introduction to John Ortberg’s book, “The Life You’ve Always Wanted,” and it stopped me dead in my tracks. I just had to share it with you today.
As I drank deeply each painful word, I felt as if I were looking into a mirror.
It really COULD be my story. It really IS my story, even though it’s Ortberg’s prose.
If you really knew me, you could see these warts far too often in me, too. God does.
He knows me much more intimately, much more deeply, than I even know myself. He sees all of me — everything you just read — each and every day.
And yet He smiles.
Yes, He watches over me and says: “this is my beloved son, with whom I am well-pleased.”
And I am beyond grateful that my real life is hidden from Him by His Son.
Thank God I have a savior who’s already achieved a perfect mark for me. Thank God I don’t have to earn His favor by living a praiseworthy life.
’Cause if you really knew me, you would know ...