Monday, July 28, 2008

What's Driving Dave?

“What is driving you?” I’d said the words before. They sort of slipped thoughtlessly out of my mouth. I’d said those words to my wife, Jan, when she seemed to never take a break. I’d said them to friends whom I self-righteously thought were giving their lives to insane schedules or harried existences or ridiculous endeavors. I’d said them, frankly, to quite a few people. But this time the words, spoken to a friend while running, boomeranged around and hit me back in the head. In my mind the thought came back, “Well, what is driving you, Dave?” I’d slowed down my training for marathons after Boston but remained pretty intense in my regimen. I’d done this on top of an insane travel schedule and a very difficult work and ministry environment. “What’s driving me?”

The flippancy of my comments and the thoughtlessness behind them rattled my cage. “What’s driving me?” Another friend recently admitted that maybe he’d bitten off more than he could chew when it came to training for a half iron man triathlon. My response was muted this time because the thought keeps coming back, “What’s driving me?”

Blaise Pascal wrote a book many years ago entitled Pensees (or reflections/ponderings). Pascal was a brilliant mathematician but what he’s actually best known for is his writings on Philosophy and Theology. In Pensees he has entire section answering the question, “What’s driving Dave?” or to put it another way, “What is diving us?” The section is entitled, Diversions. Pascal, like Augustine, believed that humankind did what they do because they want to be happy. As a matter of fact, according to Pascal, mankind cannot help but want to be happy! He was created to be happy. But still, when pondering life’s difficulties, humankind becomes unhappy. To overcome this people involve themselves in diversions. These diversions, says Pascal, keep our minds off of the difficulties of our existence and the realities that we face daily. Pascal believed that to be truly happy one has to rest: “They have another secret instinct, left over from the greatness of our original nature, telling them that the only true happiness lies in rest and not in excitement.” (Pensees Section 136) But where does this rest come from? Augustine, speaking of a relationship with God through Christ, put it like this, “Our heart is restless until it rests in you.”(Confessions Chapter 1)

I believe that I get involved in diversions because I still don’t find my rest in Christ—at least not like I should. I still believe, erroneously, that I’ll be happiest when I am active. I don’t want to believe that I believe that, but I think I still do. I am finished with my ministry in Hawaii. I’m tired. I need a break but still I drive myself. Last week my body shut me down for several days. I couldn’t work. Yesterday I ran a half marathon and substantially missed my target time in spite of being in good condition. I need to take a break. I’m going to take a month off and during that time I’m going to extract myself from some of my diversions. I’m going to go to a monastery and be silent and rest. Who knows what I’ll find. I’ll let you know in future posts.

The picture on this post was taken at Volcano National Park near Hilo, Hawaii on the big island. It was a time of rest in a very difficult time of ministry. It is instructive. Life can be very barren, like what is left over from an irruption. But in the middle of that barreness, we need rest.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Let's Celebrate Twenty Eight

I like being married. I like my female friends. They are very dear. My male friends sometimes send me emails like the one I received yesterday with the title, Fairy Tale. It goes like this: "One day, long, long ago.......There lived a woman who did not whine, nag or bitch. But this was a long time ago....... and it was just that one day. The End." Apparently, some people don't like marriage. Maybe some men don't like women! The friend who sent this to me is a nice guy. He thought this was funny. But I get tired of hearing women constantly criticized by men. Perhaps my friend was constantly criticized by women or hurt deeply by a woman. It makes me wonder.

Saturday, Jan and I celebrated our twenty-eighth wedding anniversary. Not a bad accomplishment for a baby boomer. It doesn't even remotely resemble the Fairy Tale I quoted. I don't have as much hair as I used to and I'm not as muscular as I was the day we got married. Jan doesn't have the youthful appeal she did either. Should I expect her too? Beauty and physical strength is fickle and short lived. Even a sunset over the Pacific ocean, though beautiful, can't be completely captured. "The beauty of the natural world," says N.T. Wright, "is at best the echo of a voice, not the voice itself." The same thing could be said of relationships.

Everyone wants to be liked, loved, accepted, and special. Marriage is the deepest completion of that desire. And yet so many marriages end in bankruptcy. I think people were made for relationship, yet making relationships work, let alone flourish, is remarkably difficult. Jan and I have had our moments. Billy Graham's wife was once asked if she had ever considered divorcing her husband. Her answer is profoundly humorous, "Divorce? No. Murder. Yes!" There was a period in our marriage when, outside of divorce, I would have been happy to get out. Surprised? Sorry to disappoint you. I'm sure Jan felt the same way. But God in his grace and mercy invited both of us to take a deep inner look at what was real in us. It was hard. I'd have rather had a root canal. But in the end, it was worth it.

I had dinner last night with a friend in Christian ministry. He acknowledged that there were things in his marriage that were not right. It was eating him up. Just that morning he and his wife had had a terrible fight. I tried to encourage him and let him know that the best thing he could give his congregation was a healthy marriage. As a few of my friends have said, "The best thing you can give your kids, is a healthy marriage." I believe it. Gerry Scazzero recently asked a poignant question that went something like this, "How would it have benefited your marriage if your parents had gotten help for their own." Great thought! I hope my kids can someday look at me and Jan and answer in a positive fashion.