“Real isn’t how you are made,’ said the Skin Horse. ‘It’s a thing that happens to you. When a child loves you for a long, long time, not just to play with, but REALLY loves you, then you become Real.’
‘Does it hurt?’ asked the Rabbit.
‘Sometimes,’ said the Skin Horse, for he was always truthful. ‘When you are Real you don’t mind being hurt.’
‘Does it happen all at once, like being wound up,’ he asked, ‘or bit by bit?’
‘It doesn’t happen all at once,’ said the Skin Horse. ‘You become. It takes a long time. That’s why it doesn’t happen often to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept. Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby. But these things don’t matter at all, because once you are Real you can’t be ugly, except to people who don’t understand.”
The Bitter Beginning
It all began for me as a younger man. I had big dreams, grand plans, and the world at my fingertips. I began my journey pursuing those dreams and plans, and early on I learned that the world wasn’t going to help me find success. I’ll spare you all the details, but my frustration eventually turned to bitterness.
The years went by and I found myself just making it through. Living for the dollars at the weeks end and killing my heart to find satisfaction in money and “provision” became old hat to me. But in my heart a spark survived. The dream, no matter how bitter my heart had become, was still there.
And so, I began, little by little, turning my heart back to the dream. But it was a long haul. And it still is in process. I have not seen the dream fulfilled yet. I am a man on a journey. And my lack of soul satisfaction has often fleshed itself out in bitterness towards people, (especially religious people). It has also revealed itself in the form of a critical spirit.
Justifying My Pickyness
I used to think that the reason I was so picky about so many things in life was because I was more intelligent, I was more aware, and I was more experienced because of my series of unfortunate events. I held up my judgmental attitude as a license to critique, pick apart, and judge the people who were all doing the very things I wish life had afforded me the opportunity to do.
The truth is I was jealous, and in my jealousy I had pushed away the very things and the very people that would have been my redemption. I became cold, calloused, and indifferent to those who were making their mark in the world while refusing to make mine because I felt I was better than them.
My foolishness came crashing down on me when I realized how much time and life I had wasted complaining about all the ways that people and life and circumstances and God and my family and everyone else had wronged me. I was a fool. I was truly lost.
Wide Open Spaces
And then the sun rose in my heart.
Looking out over the landscape of my life, I began to realize how much I had to be thankful for. I looked at my beautiful wife and the love of a lifetime we have shared. I realized how much she had put up with and how little I recognized that she had become more beautiful with age than I had ever imagined she would.
My children, who were once seen as mere nuisances to me at times (if I am honest), began to show me my own frailty, my own bitterness, and my own brokenness. The beauty of my daughters, the strength I see in my sons, now spurs me to desire more for them than I had previously desired. I realize how brief my time is with them and how much wisdom I still have to impart, not because I am better, but because I have become more aware of my own brokenness. And because I now realize how much they need me to show them a way forward even when life and people give you a reason to be bitter.
And now, looking into the future I see wide open spaces before me. I cannot change the actions of those who hurt me in the past. I cannot be the young man I once was, for time has taken its toll on me. I cannot go back in time, only forward. And forward I will go.
All-In. This phrase has come to mean something very special to me over the years. It has reminded me, more often than not, how much I have dreamed and how little action I have actually taken. It is easy to write words, to speak them aloud, and to mean them with all of your heart. It is quite another thing to jump in, both feet wrapped up in arms, free-falling into the sea of faith.
The church I attend has a word that, until now, I hadn’t realized how much I needed it, due to the cliche sound of it (again, that’s my judgmental nature coming out).
The word is “Authentic”. Trading the real for the counterfeit for so long in my life, I have justified my critical spirit by calling it wisdom and discernment, when in reality it was a poor substitute for my own sinful arrogance and pride. I wasn’t real, I was just wandering in my doubt.
I used my critical spirit as an excuse not to become “Authentically All-In” in my home, in my faith, in my work, and in all of my relationships. Because when you do that you become more vulnerable than you’ve ever imagined you would be. When you truly become real, your soul becomes vulnerable to being shaped by outside forces. And the truth that comes to you in that moment is often so painful you realize how little you really want to hear truth when it is spoken.
Standing on the Precipice
And so here I am. On the edge of the greatest adventure of my life…the future.
I look into it with hope.
I see the life that is waiting there.
I look around me at the traveling companions God has put by my side.
I prepare my heart for the battle that will come.
I anchor my soul in Foundation that is sure.
I fix my feet firmly.
I stand on the end of the platform, looking into the deep blue.
My heart is racing.
My face is set like a flint.
I run. I jump. I dive.
Leaving the safety of the edge.