So…yeah…about life. I have an assignment involving interviewing a non-believer (non-christian, heathen, pagan, atheist, nihilist, child of wrath etc.) about their worldview. I have a few local friends in mind, but I can’t get an episode of The Dog Whisperer out of my head. Rather than the normal format of Caesar showing up to people’s homes containing a problem-dog squatter, the episode was about Caesar going to breeders to pick out dogs upon which he would demonstrate the universality of his training method. Long story short, he surprised audiences when he picked the most docile puppies. His choices were surprising because audiences believed that the greatest evidence of his method would be the greatest turn-around in dog behavior. But Caesar, being the Dog Whisperer, knew the score and saw the opportunity to teach a greater lesson, I think.
So here, I would like to use Caesar’s thinking for this paper. Are you considering Christianity and repentance? Maybe you’ve feel like repenting but aren’t convinced how Christianity’s truth claims hold up in the intellectual world? Let me know. Email me at email@example.com and we’ll see about letting God transform your life.
Okay. Here it is. The Author’s Preface and Chapter One are below. Tomorrow’s post will be Chapter Two, but then you gotta buy it. Enjoy! (Click on the image to go to Amazon. Or here.)
Looking back, I am certain that in his last months with us Simon Pastor was aware that his journey’s end was nearing. Those of us closest to him have since discussed the sadness his eyes betrayed no matter how large his smile during those last few months. And I, especially, feel a heavy burden because he once told me that when I tell his story (“and tell it you must!” he’d implore) that I need to get it right, that I need to share everything. In honor, then, of Simon Pastor’s wishes I have chosen to write this book. His will granted me access to everything of his, including his laptop and phone. I have, of course, taken dramatic license with some parts of his story, but when you read a text exchange or email exchange, know that it is verbatim, typos and all.
Men get stuck. Simon Pastor was no different. Like every man he reached a turning point which defined all actions thereafter. Unlike some men, however, Simon fell prey to this moment. It overwhelmed him. It consumed him. And eventually it killed him.
Trauma is usually found within these turning points. I say trauma to emphasize the sheer shock of the event and its aftermath. Combat is the trigger for some, the senseless unexpected death of a loved one for others. For Simon, the event was his divorce.
When men are confronted by these moments, they respond in one of two ways. Either they grow or they get stuck. And I don’t mean to imply that men have an equal chance of responding in either of the two ways, not at all. Most men get stuck. Most are not equipped with the skills and tools necessary to deal with the trauma. Poor Simon wasn’t.
“Simon, here, is a virgin,” said Brian. “He’s holding out for his one true love.”
Simon was, in fact, a virgin. But this did not make him any different from the rest of the eighteen year old college freshmen in the dorm room. The dorm room’s dominant feature was the two twin beds lofted into the air by homemade wooden stands, which made the shape of an L in the corner. The room’s current tenants each hung bed sheets from the ceiling in order to conceal any co-ed sports that may or may not occur on the beds. This was standard practice among the dorm’s residents. The beds being in the air also created more space for the young men to come together for intimate conversations. In the case of Brian’s room, this room, a love seat was under one of the beds. Two more 1950s style wooden desk chairs and one crummy bean bag chair completed the room’s seating arrangement.
“You laugh,” Simon replied, “but I actually did sign a ‘True Love Waits’ card once. With others, I walked it up to the front of the church during a special service and everything. A public vow between God and I. You ever made a commitment to anything higher than yourself before? Any of you?”
It’s what we loved about Simon. He was honest to a fault and all heart.
“That depends on your definition of high, Simon,” Chris offered to a general laughter among the guys.
Rolling his eyes and shaking his head, Simon took a breath.
“Is it on my back? My forehead?” he asked, pretending to wipe off a mark. “Why is it everywhere I go this is the most frequently discussed thing? No, I haven’t had sex. Yes, I’d like to save myself for marriage. And yes, I’m proud of this and could not care less who knows. But I do hope that we can someday talk about something, anything, else,” he lamented. “How about Josh? He was so drunk he pissed on his own computer the other night. Isn’t that interesting?”
General merriment accompanied Josh’s inadequate rebuttal.
For Simon, college was infinitely better than high school in every way save this one. In high school, while every boy talked about having sex, only a select few had actually gained carnal knowledge. In college, however, Simon soon found himself in the minority. And given the general lack of responsibilities that come with attending American universities, everyone soon knew.
He once shared with me, though, that almost to a man, when in a one-on-one conversation, the guys would admit that they respected him for his decision. I knew I did. It was not difficult to see why. Simon believed in principles. He believed in virtue. And that is rare.
Buy it today. Chapter Two tomorrow.
Groggy only began to describe his morning. This was confusing because this was the morning after he was given the gift of time. One whole hour to use as he saw fit. Like any good American, he used the time to watch movies he’d already seen. Not movie, movie-zz. He had just read Joseph Conrad’s seminal Heart of Darkness for the first time on Friday, so afterward he was motivated to re-visit Francis Ford Coppola’s seminal Apocalypse Now: Redux. Unfortunately, he didn’t possess the staying power to make it through the additional 49 minutes this version contained Friday night, so last night was the night to finish that off. Next, he felt like regretting that his relationship with his brother wasn’t that great, so he turned on Warrior. It worked. And it gave him hope that maybe someday he and his brother could have some metaphorical fight which causes them to live happily ever after until the credits scroll. Wanting to immerse himself deeper in hope, he decided–for a reason he’s never going to explore–to run with a desire for more Tom Hardy and naturally began watching TDKR. (Mother: that’s the latest Batman movie–you know, the one that came out on my birthday last year). Taking great pride in his level of discipline, even before the caped crusader made his first appearance, he realized it was late, and went to sleep.
Opening the laptop this morning then, he stared at Netflix’s homepage. Then it happened. Nirvana. The sound of his jaw hitting the floor was the only thing that brought him back. Excited beyond belief, he saw staring back at him in Netflix’s personalized “Top Ten for Pete” category Miley Cyrus and Demi Moore’s LOL. How does Netflix do it? He didn’t even know LOL was out, and yet Netflix knew to place it where he couldn’t miss it. Immediately, though, not wanting to give Netflix too much credit–they were still just a group of flawed individuals doing their best–he began unraveling the mystery. After all, he did watch Mission Impossible’s 1-4 in a ten hour window that one night. Oh, and There Will Be Blood has streamed down to his screen more than a few times. Now that he really thought about it, anyone who has watched The Avengers is sure to have a Demi Moore poster or two on their bedroom ceiling. Now he was starting to actually reconsider whether he should so readily praise Netflix. And come to think of it, he did recently read that the people behind Mel Gibson’s latest film, Get the Gringo, were coming out with a similarly flavored mother-daughter how-did-you-become-such-a-screw-up-when-I-put-all-my-energy-into-raising-you-to-not-be-just-like-me-even-though-I-am-still-a-screw-up-to-this-day chick-flick starring two females who people actively hide their children from. It seemed there was no mystery to Netflix’s methods after all.
Resigned, he closed the laptop and took his cereal bowl to the counter. “I’ll get around to it,” he thought to himself, preempting the angel that was about to tell him to just put it directly in the dishwasher.
Falling into the couch, he shed a tear. Like every other company, it seemed that Netflix was succeeding by simple logic.
Incidentally, if you’re not aware, here is a link to a third party site that connects directly to Netflix and actually makes sense. www.instantwatcher.com
Pete couldn’t remember meeting her. He thought that was weird. Then again, a big sister would’ve always been there, wouldn’t she have? I guess he did have some early memories of her. There was the often told bike incident with little Steven. Oh, and for some reason he could remember her displaying shyness whenever it was clear she liked a certain boy. And he’d never forget his favorite memory of their childhood. It was the day he, ahem, stumbled upon a certain diary entry which contained a baggie of gum that she saved after she was given it–handed–directly from the mouth of a crush of hers. (Not having much time for fear of being caught, he only found it because it prevented the book from closing properly).
He was so selfish that he always took credit for initiating his own desire to live with integrity. Today, however, Pete finally took a minute and realized she necessarily would have been a founding influence, even if just subconsciously. She did the ‘right things’ as a child, and not only stayed out of trouble, but was rewarded for it. Rewarded with high grades at school, with being well-liked by everyone who knew her, and with achieving success in her passions. Those were only a few of the things he unwittingly observed growing up with her.
She also never questioned or interfered with his dreams and pursuits.
Their only moments of tension came when he was too evangelical about the need for everyone to be like him. Oh, and the morning when she criticized the smell of the slightly burnt scrambled egg-whites. He was pretty upset at her for that. What could he say? Egg-whites were one of his only meals whose flavor he enjoyed some 60 days into the restrictive pre-contest diet, and she just had to say something, didn’t she? Oh well. On this day he is in no mood to hold grudges–he’s just sayin’.
These days he sees how she raises her family. There is a lot of stress, there is a lot of yelling, there is a lot of frustration. But what her children will remember is that there was a loving mom. Always. And that constancy, Pete and his sister (and their brother for that matter) knew from experience, was priceless. In this moment of contemplation, he realized that her continuing to live with the values she demonstrated as a child should have never surprised him. Either way, for him at least, the story only gets better.
There came a time when he needed help. He needed someone he could rely on no matter what. He needed a partner who wouldn’t judge him and who would hold him accountable. His mind raced through the names of everyone he knew. There was one name with which he couldn’t find fault, one name which he couldn’t dismiss, one name he knew he wouldn’t lie to out of respect, one name he knew would not let him off easy, and one name who would respect him through the journey. There was one name whose unfailing love blinded her to weakness leaving only strength.
That name was Kate. Thank you Kate. And “Happy Birthday!” All Good.
Dear Friends Who Challenge Me,
I’m writing to you on this fine September day because we need to talk. Please understand writing this letter was not easy for me. I can already hear some of your responses and I have only completed three sentences. I simply wanted to say, “Thanks, but no thanks.”
You see, you have all–unintentionally I hope–ruined my life. Up until I met you, I was happy-go-lucky and really thought I knew which way was up. I went about my days with little or no concern for…anything, really. The people I surrounded myself with would empathize with my every feeling. If I was sad, they would shower me with sympathy cards. If I was happy, they would throw me a party. If I was mad, they would come rushing to my defense. It was really quite wonderful.
Then you guys entered my life. I can’t even remember which of you I met first, or how we met. What I do remember is how I felt as you didn’t empathize. At first, I can’t deny that you had appeal simply because you were different–as if a lightening bolt. But over time, I learned to love you guys. You provided a balancing perspective that I nearly forgot existed. I treasured the perspective. I finally felt grown up.
Living with you in my life taught me to really evaluate the situation. Should I be sad? Should I be happy? Was anger really the appropriate response? And no matter where we disagreed, you always let me make up my own mind and go my own way. Your authenticity tore-down the shelter that my fear and laziness constructed.
Just the same, I think the time has come for us to part ways. I know. I know this is difficult and confusing for you to hear. Believe me when I tell you I haven’t come to this decision lightly. My problem is I just can’t relate to ‘normal’ people anymore. When they live and talk, I want to be authentic with them, as you have been authentic with me. It doesn’t work. These new friends go silent. They have no response. Some of them become visibly agitated. I have been called “mean.” Their shelter is too strong. More than that, they don’t even want to believe they have one.
You and I know that they’ll be happier without it, but I am still mad at you. I feel so lost in these new situations that I really do think the best thing is for me to rebuild my own shelter. I think it will be nice to take a break for a while. I hope you can understand this decision, though I know you never will. Maybe we’ll meet again someday.
Once Your Friend,