The stuff that life is made of (Dallas – Part 4)

December 15, 2008 | By | Add a Comment

ornamentsIt’s been about a month now in Dallas and the Christmas party was tonight. In one sense, it was just another gathering where everybody dressed up. I mean, there is the prom and then the college senior formal and then annual Christmas parties and weddings and other occasions to dress up and get together. It’s not like this was too much different. In another sense, it was more than a Christmas party. There was dancing and music and deep conversations and not so deep conversations. There were new friendships being formed and old friendships being solidified. There was joy and merriment and dancing. Yes, there was dancing.

It was just another party, but it wasn’t just another party. It was the celebration of life given by the giver of life in honor of the beginning of life for the maker of life. Getting ready, nervous anticipation, food, laughter, dancing, friendships – it’s the stuff that life is made of.  As a few songs put it, I will take the still frames in my mind and use them to paint myself a picture of this life.

I used to not think about pictures too often. I’m starting to love pictures because they keep memories alive. I want to write about memories because I don’t want to lose them. I don’t want to lose them, because if I do then I also lose a part of myself. I want to be able to look back and think, “that was night that I met so and so”, or “that was when we were still friends” or even “that was our night”.

There will also be sadness when I look back on these events. Some friendships will dissolve and eventually the group will dissolve. There will be a sense of loss that will let your heart break if you let it. And maybe it isn’t such a bad thing to let your heart break. Maybe pain can achieve something good. Maybe a broken heart can create tenderness and mercy and even hope. And what is the hope for? The hope is for what is felt in the dancing and the food and the stolen glance into another’s eyes. The taste is for what we all know is missing. The longing is for home.

I distinctly remember leaving the gym after each basketball game. A few hours earlier, there had been a large crowd and a battle being fought and sweat and even some tears. There was flirting going on in the stands and the pep band dancin’ and playin’ and popcorn and laffy taffy being served in the cafeteria at halftime. There was the big bright scoreboard and the “Redskins on the Warpath” painting with the chief on the wall. There was the taste of love and time I stumbled across the girl of my dreams making out with someone in the hallway. There was glory to be had and hard work and dreams being crushed. There was also togetherness and camaraderie and things so beautiful and so horrible that it would break your heart if you let it. And that’s not a bad thing.

As I shuffled out of the gym after each game, I took one last look at the gym. This time, it was empty. I remember it like I remember the house we used to live in and the last episode of Growing Pains where they all looked at the living room one last time before closing the door. It was always a strange feeling that something so full of life a few hours earlier could be so empty that it’s almost like nothing took place. But the walls knew what happened, just like the rafters know along with old man river. And I know what happened. I know what happened because I witnessed it. Not only did I witness it, but I was a part of it. Not only was I part of it, but I can still go there now. In my mind it is fresh as ever. I can still smell the popcorn in my mind and even if I didn’t run off with the cheerleader, there was something there. Something that meant something to me and maybe even to her. Something that touched me and pointed to more. Something that even as our pinkie fingers let go of at that dance, I still hold on to and cherish.

I found myself wishing others a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year tonight and really meaning it, too. I wanted to wish them more. I wanted to wish them a Happy Birthday and a Happy Heart and a Happy Life. I was asking how they were doing and I really cared to know the answer. I wanted to tell them that I love them and that God loves them and to be able to fill up the empty spaces inside their hearts or at least make those spaces feel less empty.

It was a hard year for me. It’s hard to explain why, but you’ll just have to trust me. There is one line of a Rich Mullins song that has comforted me the whole time: “I don’t know where you’re leading me, unless you’ve led me here, to where I’m lost enough to let myself be led”. If you had told me a year or so ago that I would be living in Dallas and searching for a job at this time of year, I probably would have laughed in your face. But, for some reason, God has brought me here and He is leading me. Because of Him I am strong even though I am weak and have great wealth even though I am poor. Yes, it has been another long December. And yet, there is reason to believe that maybe next year will be better than the last.

The feelings may not last for long, but I will keep them alive by remembering them in my heart. To Katie, Dave, sweet girl from Louisiana, Darren, Brittany, supermodel young adults pastor, Laura, Isaac, Julie, Jeff, beautiful s’more girl who told me I am funny and everybody else – thank you. Thank you for enriching my life. Thank you for showing love to a stranger and for welcoming a wanderer. Whatever you did for the least of these (me), you did for Christ.

They say that love can heal the broken. They say that hope can make you see. I see you all as precious gifts from the giver of all good things. Come, let us adore Him together.

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