A couple years ago, upon realizing my life was going nowhere in a hurry and not wanting to settle for mediocrity, I called out for God’s help. I wanted a truly abundant life, I knew that I was wholly inadequate to bring about the necessary changes to make that reality (God knows I’ve tried) so I begged for the impossible be done.
I have seen many dreams die in my life because of fear of failure, inexplicably poor timing, etc. I was well-aware of the cliché definition of insanity (doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result) but could not seem to break from the patterns of life that limited my potential. I was what I was and deeply dissatisfied with that.
There was an undefined something that always seemed to crush my higher ambitions.
I could not beat an enemy that could not be defined. So I told God in no uncertain terms that I would literally crawl on hands and knees across a wilderness of broken glass to be made right. Throwing every bit of faith I could muster, like a gambler going all in with a desperate last gasp effort, I prayed “make the impossible possible for me” and then concluded my morning prayer.
It was an hour or two after that when I hopped out of my truck and went down writhing in pain. My knee buckled under me. In that moment what had been diagnosed as an MCL sprain became a full ACL tear and I knew that the implications were huge. I would be unable to perform the duties of my job and with that was facing financial uncertainty.
Still, despite excruciating pain, I was serene and confident.
God had answered.
Or so I hoped.
“It is what it is…”
My faith crumbled against that awful reality.
“You are thirty years old living in Milton.”
It was true and the implications clear enough.
I was a stick in the mud, already past my prime by the standards of some, and certainly not the adventure her heart was set upon. I simultaneously loved her brutal honesty and hated the harshness of judgment. My worst fear realized.
I had no defense.
When we finally parted ways I was lost in a haze. The rug yanked out from under me. My sputtering attempts to articulate my own heart had no effect on her whatsoever. Blissful hopes were mercilessly cut down by an otherwise nurturing soul.
My conversation with her end with my mouth involuntarily echoing her “it is what it is” plea and with that accepting the rationality of fatalism that had long dogged me.
A continuing cruel loneliness now seemed inevitable. I had tried many times before, taken my hits, always got back up again by believing next time would be better—that something greater would come from my suffering rejection. But this time I could not delude myself with hope.
My faith had lost the day—my hope against hope had failed—and now a terrible fate of a despairingly cold and isolated life was upon me.
My mind, a place normally full of noise and activity, went totally blank as if unable to comprehend any of it. I was in shock about what had transpired and numb.
I wandered off aimlessly.
Into the wilderness of South Dakota.
Into the dark of night.
The storm brewing in overhead seemed to perfectly mirror the log-jam of conflicted thoughts and swirl of deep emotions.
My delusion of hope that a young ambitious woman might find me desirable enough to consider a romantic relationship was shattered into a million fragments. My failure to achieve now clung to me like an unforgivable sin. Very soon I awoke from my stupor into an inescapable nightmare of reality.
The uneasy calm broke when Johnny and Brian somehow found me. The rain, which had coincidentally held to precisely the moment they carried me to the shelter of an awaiting truck cab, began to pour down in torrents and so did my tears.
Escaping reality was impossible.
Doing battle with the it…
Most people nowadays pursue career first and romance second. But I had these things in reverse order. I prioritized relationship and postponed all else.
My reasoning was that it would be better to form life ambitions and goals together as a couple rather than apart. And I might have pulled it off had I been a bit less socially awkward. Unfortunately I had this vexing tendency to freeze up as soon as my interest was piqued and thus my early romantic pursuits failed miserably.
Years were frittered away with unfulfilled dreams, chasing one false hope after another and waiting for opportunities that never came.
Not to say that I did nothing of value in that time either. I gained life experience, slowly built confidence in my abilities, learned to live independently, and gained perspective.
However, it was hard not to feel a failure.
There seemed to be this mysterious “it” that always kept my best efforts from panning out and nobody had the answers for this that I craved.
I’ve heard all the cliché advice I could ever stomach. One person says try harder and the next will say you’re trying too hard. One tells you “you’re intimidating” and the next says you lack confidence. You’re basically wrong no matter what you do.
The same one who says they want someone “mature” rejects your offer and then dates a teenager whom she later marries. It is incredibly confusing when the same person who says you’ll make a “great husband” refuses to even consider a date.
It is impossible to define exactly what the “it” is. It was a ball of anxieties, that inexplicably poor timing, a curse of a jealous enemy, the lack of true community and help.
It was many things and yet nothing at all.
It was an invisible monster that chased me throughout my life. It was the glass wall that seperated me from those who were more able to conquer the obstacles in their way and achieve their goals. It was my doing too little too late or too much too early. It was my always being close to the mark and yet never hitting it.
The “it” is not something external to be vanquished. It is everything from my formative years up until the present moment that I’ve experienced or thought. It is my home, my genetic and cultural inheritance, the good and bad together intertwined and inseparable as part of my own character.
The “it” is a sum total of what defines me as a person.
It was inescapable.
It is me.
It is what we make it…
Her certainty about her own direction was why she was so attractive to me. It was never my plan to grow old in Milton.
However, she seemed to believe that her personal ambitions were something that made us incompatible. To me our lack of similar résumé was not a disqualification, I saw our differences as an asset, considering her strengths as being complimentary rather than contradictory to mine, but she disagreed.
She was my last remaining escape plan.
I did not eat in the days after because I had no desire to continue as I had and seemingly had no escape. I wanted to die and would rather starve than keep feeding myself with more false hopes.
I cried, “I have no vision!”
I so desperately wanted free of a mind seemingly incapable of focus. I had seemed to do fine in a structure. I was a diligent worker, a loyal friend, responsible and dedicated. But leave me too free to choose my own path and I would dither indefinitely in indecision.
God provided just enough reason to get me out of bed. I cleaned up, composed myself a bit, ate the cup of yogurt and glass of water mom provided. I faced her again, my elusive hope against hope, and then in the weeks following I went under the knife to have the torn ligament replaced with a graft and after that began the months of rehabilitation. My goal to come back stronger than before and physically I did.
What also happened in my time off of work was a book (written but shelved pending further review) and this blog. I’ve found some answers in blogging. Writing my experiences and recording some of my thoughts has seemed to help provide some direction. The more vulnerable I’ve become the more friends and opportunities to serve I’ve seemed to gain.
Why am I Mennonite?
I have never been the Mennonite golden boy.
I’ve never had the swooning attention of the favorites who better represent the ideals of Mennonite culture. I’ve always done things a little different. I was who I was and gave up on being anything besides that. But still, I longed to gain acceptance in the Mennonite culture.
In Mennonite culture marriage is acceptance and not all are. Yes, sure, we’ll let most anyone be a member so long as they complete the required steps, but marriage is where the reality of a two tiered system becomes very evident. There are the kids born in the right homes, the ones able to do all the things that make them popular within their cultural context and marriageable, and then there are those of us who don’t fit the mold.
She represents a direction that I thought my life should go in. Her Mennonite idealism, her simplicity of role or purpose in life, represented something deep within my own heart and desirable.
However, many who have read my blogs question this and ask… “why are you still Mennonite?”
It is question that I dislike.
I’m Mennonite because I like being Mennonite.
We have such a neat and tidy cloistered existence. We have beautiful families. We are the happy Hobbits living in the Shire of Middle-earth. Everything we do is safe. Even our missionaries typically go out to all the corners of the world yet never leave the protection of their religious confines.
It has been suggested to me recently that I have “out grown” the tradition. That is the question that I have wrestled with as of late.
Can one actually out grow their home?
I’m running out of arguments why to stay in a denomination that is more about conforming to cultural expectations than transformation of mind and living a life of true faith.
It is hard not to notice that most of the help on my journey came from those leaving the Mennonite tradition or outside of it. The support I’ve gotten from those within has been grudgingly or something that needed extracted and done as mere religious duty. I hear brotherly love spoke of by Mennonites, but it seems more relic or ritual than actually reality. The real brotherhood I’ve experienced, the genuine Christian love, comes from beyond my own Mennonite tradition.
Does a man of faith belong with those who shrug “it is what it is” rather than risk a small step into unfamiliar territory?
Should I have any part with those who eagerly travel over land and sea to win a single convert and yet would never go in a direction they don’t understand?
Still there is a strong urge to remain a part.
I’ve always thought all voices were needed in the conversation and the including mine. If everyone capable of challenging the cultural status quo leaves it would create even more tunnel vision and further imbalance. My strengths, rejected or not, would be of benefit to those who think they have all the answers and are confident about the tradition they received.
Composites make a stronger material than their component parts—shouldn’t the bond of love be able to do the same with two dissimilar people?
There is a time to wait and there is a time to take decisive action. I have given up many opportunities for placing my hopes within the context of my Mennonite culture and gone many years without seriously considering the alternatives.
Mennonite is my cultural identity. Despite my many idiosyncrasies, I’ve always been Mennonite at heart and somewhat proud of my ethnic and religious heritage. How does one unbind and divorce themselves from their cherished past?
It is not like I haven’t ventured out before in search of what I might find only to return again as if drawn by an invisible force that grew stronger the further away I got from whoopie pies and covering strings. But things do change and there could be a force stronger than that which always pulled me back.
When I asked God to make the impossible possible for me, I had a personal vision that included remaining Mennonite and the young woman that I knew was an impossibility as far as worldly logic is concerned. But it now seems possible that my vision then was too narrow and that I should look beyond to the other options available.
Being Mennonite is not the be all end all. God calls us to go beyond the limits we set for ourselves or those set for us by our cultures and that is my intention. It doesn’t matter what my religious peers or even my blood relatives think—Jesus called us to follow Him and leave our fears, insecurities and inadequacies behind us.
Maybe impossibility made possible for me is something I never anticipated?
That is what have I learned since that day tearing my ACL, in recovery from yet another slap of rejection, and from the battle with the “it” which drove me to extremes in search of answers. I learned that I do not have all the answers and don’t need all the answers before I am able to step out in faith.
There are many things that will soon come to a head for me and most I am unable to talk openly about at this time. Many of these things being pivotal life changing decisions that must be made. What happens in the next couple months will determine many things.
Your prayers to help me through this transitional time are very appreciated. Pray that the impossible is made possible.