So, here’s what happened—
My wife was diagnosed with leukemia. Our daughter continued on with her mostly up but sometimes down battle with Type 1 diabetes. Our son broke his wrist. Mom’s health took a turn for the worse and then the very worse. It all got so bad there for a while that people at work started referring to me as Job. But while things by far have yet to settle down, it is Christmas—my favorite time of the year—and I do have a new book coming soon. And I really missed popping out a blog post every seven days. So here I am, doing my darnedest to get back into the swing of things.
The problem with taking so much time off from a blog is that you have too much to say when you get back. It all tends to get muddled up in the mind. That’s a little of what I’m feeling right now. So instead of one story about one thing, I thought I’d take this bit to share some of the things that have been on my mind.
You remember the story of John the Baptist being put in prison? Herod had reached the limits of his patience with this hillbilly out in the desert and so tossed John in jail to rot (and ultimately to have his head literally served on a platter). While there, John hears reports of all the things his cousin Jesus is doing and sends his disciples to ask Jesus one simple question: Are you really the Son of God? Because I’ve been spending all this time telling everyone you are, and I could really use your help here. For his part, Jesus told John’s disciples to go back and say that the blind now see, the lame walk, the lepers are healed, the deaf hear, the dead are being raised, and the poor have good news preached to them.
And then Jesus adds this, saving it for last because it’s so important.
Tell John, he says, that “blessed is the one who does not fall away because of me.”
I’ve probably read that story a hundred times in my life, yet it never really clicked with me until these last months. John had faith enough when his life was just chugging along—great faith, even—but there’s something about a prison cell and the threat of death that can bring doubts to even the most faithful soul. You sure You’re up there, God? Because I kind of need a miracle right now, and it seems to me You’re just not paying attention. And God says Of course I’m here, and I’m there, and I’m doing things so wonderful that you can’t even imagine it all. But don’t lose faith just because I’m not fitting into the little box you made for me. Don’t stumble because you don’t understand why things have to be like this for now.
A hard lesson for sure, but one my family is learning.
I was walking through town one morning a while back and happened upon an honest-to-goodness professional singer. You wouldn’t know him. He plays a few of the clubs across the mountain on the weekends, that’s all. But he gets paid for doing it, and in my book paid equals professional. I was one street up along a little hill, walking parallel to him and minding my own business. No traffic, no people. That’s when I heard him sing. Rich baritone, smooth as butter. Enough to make me stop and watch. What I noticed is that he would sing when walking by the buildings, then stop whenever he came to an open space like an intersection or an alleyway. It got me so curious that I bumped into him accidentally on purpose a few blocks later to ask what he was doing. Testing his voice, he said. You can’t tell how strong your voice is if you’re singing out in the open. But when you sing while surrounded by something like brick and stone built up so high that it dwarfs you, then you know. Things like that bounce your voice right back to you. You hear your true self rather than the noise in your head.
Maybe that’s a little of what John the Baptist was doing, and me, and maybe you. Testing our voices up against things we can’t move. Finding out who we really are.
You know you’re getting up there in age when all the stars of your childhood start passing on. That’s the first thing I thought when I heard that David Cassidy had died. The Partridge Family ended when I was two, but I grew up with the reruns. Was there anyone cooler than David Cassidy? Nope. He had the looks and the hair and the voice and got to travel around the country in a funky school bus. I remember him on magazine covers and being mobbed by girls. Rich. Famous. What a life.
And yet I read an article last week that mentioned his final words to his daughter. Know what they were?
“So much wasted time.”
Kind of hits you hard, doesn’t it? Especially when you realize everything that man had is everything the world says is necessary to live a good life, and everything most of us are either chasing after or wish we had.
I’ve heard he suffered from dementia at the end. Maybe that was the prison cell David Cassidy found himself in, like John the Baptist. Maybe that’s what allowed him to face the hard truths of his life. Or maybe he just found himself singing into a wall too big and wide for him to get around, and he finally heard his real voice for the first time.
But this I know for certain now, and maybe you know it, too—life can sometimes be a terribly hard thing to endure. Sometimes the things that happen make no sense. But that’s no reason to stumble. No cause to throw your hands up and say it’s all for nothing.