Happy Birthday to Me!

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Today I’ll eat Swiss steak and mashed potatoes with thick gravy. For dessert I’ll have a banana split with Breyer’s vanilla bean ice cream and homemade hot fudge sauce made from Ghirardelli chocolate. This afternoon we’ll dress up (I’ll put on nice jeans) and we’ll go out and do something that doesn’t cost much money.

I told someone yesterday that I don’t think I’ve ever felt healthier, in every sense: I exercise, I sleep well, I have rich devotional times, I’m more in love with my wife than ever, I’m fulfilled in my work, I have a 40″ flat-screen TV, lovely children and a granddaughter.

When I started serving as bishop I was surprised by the constant speaking and writing opportunities. I remember describing the demands of the work like this, “it’s like standing on the shore of the sea about where the waves break. One wave hits you and it’s exhilarating. Then just as you’re clearing your eyes, another wave breaks over you and you figure you’d better be paying attention. Just as you’ve figured that out a wave knocks you around and disorients you. So you begin watching the waves and jumping just in front of them. Pretty soon you’re getting pretty good at anticipating the waves but you have to stay alert. Any lapse in attention and you’ll get knocked down.”

That’s the way it felt initially. Not in a discouraging way, but just in a realistic recognition that there was a lot to do. Most of the days I even enjoyed those waves. I know I never whined about them because I never lost the thrill of the ocean.

But recently I realized the waves don’t feel like they’re constantly breaking over me. Instead they feel like they’re under my boat, floating me. Instead of a challenge, they’re my support. Instead of being what knocks me down, they’re what lift me up. The waves aren’t threatening; they’re my friends. This isn’t some kind of therapeutic self-talk; it’s just a description of how I now feel. I don’t think the waves changed, I think I took a different position, a different perspective.

At some point I must have pushed off from shore, which is where the waves are dangerous. I must have stopped trying to anchor my feet in the sand while in the ocean and just accepted that this is an ocean, so let’s float! I wish I knew when or how it happened but I don’t. The demands of the work are still there but they’re not disorienting.

Just as an observation, it’s probably nothing: but the change corresponds with my telling all these Bible stories the past few years. My brain has been re-wired to see everything fitting into God’s larger story. So as I tell the story of Jonah being tossed, or Elisha being threatened, or David being tempted, or Saul crouched among the Samsonites (not to be confused with Samson), or Paul with a snake dangling from his hand, they’re all just crafts on a larger sea, a Good Sea that’s moving toward a destination, a sea I’m also on. I suppose that reality of a Good Sea been some encouragement to me.

Happy Birthday to me; an old man and the sea.