I think about heaven a lot. (As first sentences go…)
No experience with perfection, so I reduce it to how-it-is-down-here… some angel bureaucracy in charge of admittance, couldn’t let you just rush in, meet Jesus, hug your loved ones… nope, first you’d have to go through Orientation…
Your last taste of guilt: they’d put you in a big room, a nice chair, and play a movie for you, titled How Your Life Could Have Been.
Uncle P Was A Jonah
When I compiled some Bedtime Stories into my first book I hinted a backstory in the Introduction. “Freshman English, *college*, the professor puts a note on the bottom of my essay, “Come see me in my office.”
“You could be dangerous,” he told me…. It terrified me.”
I ran from writing like Jonah ran from Ninevah. Decades later, when I got swallowed by my whale, I picked up a #2 pencil and a blank sheet of paper…
I’d lost a lot of time. But I was still living. So I self-educated myself. To be a writer, they said, read, read, read and write, write, write, so I did, did, did.
I was awful at first, but I came to see that God’s gifts are a lot like the very gift of life; we all start crawling, then walk, run, and for some, if it’s in ‘em, they run really fast…
That Pesky Make-A-Living Thing
I’d done the chase-the-money thing. I’d done the catch-the-wave thing. The everyone-thinks-it’s-cool thing. Once upon a time I taught myself to program, and made a living writing custom software. Hour after hour, using the weak side of my brain, God as my witness, I was too dumb to know how miserable I was.
I didn’t know I was creative, so I kept putting myself in standardized boxes. That works well for Amazon and UPS, but there’s a death to it, for people, because the part of us that doesn’t fit is often our best part…
Just a small bounce north of rock bottom, me in my 40’s, I did my Jesus Take The Wheel prayer. “Hey, it’s me.” Like a little Hail Mary, I’d walk, and pray, day after day, say the same thing over ‘n over, “Lead me to the life You had in mind for me, and help me to become the person You had in mind for me to be.”
I thought it a fine prayer. I was coming from my 30 days in the desert, and I expected him to part water and zap me with a map. He answered His way; His fingerprints on all the open doors that opened into rooms where I’d find healing, growth, fit, place, and a mirror, and there I was, the real me.
I’ll always second guess myself… what would’ve-could’ve if I’d risked poverty to aim for Writer sooner, at the risk of all… but instead I began a two decade journey where I created a job/income that led me to the business I’m now closing. When it began I didn’t know: that I was creative; that I could work this hard; that I could grind; that I could figure it out on the fly; that all my past wrong turns and scars were now not only of use, but distinctly powerful tools.
A farm kid, raised to go to college, get a suit ‘n tie job, I tried all that, and found my sweet spot was a day with a lot of body labor and mind labor, in balance.
…except it wasn’t really balance. For several years I’ve had this discomfort, while making something, this whisper, “This isn’t your best thing… you could’ve written 4 stories in the time it took to make this one table…”
Discomfort Can Be The Whisper Of Angels
Of course, I didn’t listen. Years pass. I earned more discomfort.
The fork in the road was my upcoming lease renewal. To sign meant three more years, of a sure, safe thing, socially approved, valued in the community, worthy of respect – all that good stuff – but to sign would have been to sell my better self… and the could-be that is out there waiting for me…
So I gave notice. The co-worker/friend who has been with me longest, I tell her, she listens, and says, “I hope you finish strong.” I’ve never been much for slogans. It seems so “herd” and I’ve never been much for herds… but the finish-strong thing became a flag I could daily salute. Eighty-one, all it was, all it gave, it was a gift of God, for a season of my life, and was due an honorable end. Even with a short time frame, I got, I made, I risked. I met the standard.
Finish My Life Strong
Six decades in, I’ve never felt more competent to be alive. All my past feels preparatory, for some Finish Strong of my own life. I have earned my foundation. I have done the work. I hear myself, clearly. I feel God connected.
For a guy who had no faith, for so long, here I am, faith unto peace, that life has purpose, that what God gives us as talents ‘n tools, was given for a reason. I am a journeyman of thoughts ‘n words, praying a new prayer, “Hey, here I am, put me to work…” I’m not inquiring about the pay. I trust the Boss to do right.
And if there is some How Your Life Could’ve Been at the orientation into heaven, maybe mine- and yours – with all our mistakes, all the gone calendars of our invisible years… maybe if we Finish Strong it all comes together, and we realize that all along, God knew all the dumb stuff we’d do, and He waited for us, on the main line, all ripe for making it count, and The All of our lives somehow all works altogether for good…
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This edition of Uncle P’s Bedtime Stories is brought to you by the ghost of Eighty-one. We thank all of you who enjoyed our little store, with all its big Want To. If you’re interested in the book of Bedtime Stories, email us at eightyonecreativity@gmail, with your phone number and we’ll call, take your info, and mail next day.
*The English professor who encouraged me was Dr. Cooper, at McNeese. All these decades later, there I was, just a few red lights down the street from McNeese. I’ve been writing publicly, seriously, since 2013…there’s almost no excuse for someone “in the business” of writing to not have been aware of me. Not once, in all these years, did a single member of the faculty stop by to say, “Hey, you’re on your way to getting dangerous.” I guess they don’t have any Dr. Coopers over there anymore. The moral of this reprimand is this: whatever your talent, if it’s in you, you’ll find a way. The sacred sweet spot of writing is to “find your voice.” I have. Main reason: I did it by myself…