Monday, February 20, 2006
The Day of the Drudge
It might have been a good decision. It might even have been the right, and best, decision. As all decisions do this one had ramifications far beyond, and far deeper, than just the simple act of taking a steady job in Nebraska.
I had been a Christian for 9 years at that time. I'd heard God's voice. I'd even seen hints of his guidance, but my hearing wasn't sensitive enough to consistently hear the Holy Spirit. My eyes were too easily diverted in my attempts to blend in with society so as to assure survival. Taking this steady job was just one more step, but it abrogated an unwritten, mostly unconscious deal with God. I took the steering wheel into my hands.
A charmed life, they say. I tiptoed through life's minefields and didn't get hurt. I had just enough money to pay the bills. I wasn't serious about any of this. I was living to learn things, to see what I could see, and simply didn't care about the other trappings of life. I was different, had different motivations. It could have ended at any time. Life is unstable, you can't see beyond the present instant, and almost anything could have thrown me into a hole. It didn't happen. God's hand on my life? I think so. The reasons are his.
June of 1980, a friend and I took off in my old Ford to go camping. We had barely enough money. We ended up in Spokane, Washington and if the car had broken down there we'd have been stuck. The car ran and got us back to Colorado with about 58 cents in our pockets and fumes in the tank. We were young, silly, and optimistic. Two months after the end of that trip I lost the optimism and became a drudge. God let me drive.
This moment has come to mind often in the last two years. I'd never made such a decision before, and certainly would not have chosen to leave Colorado if I'd been in my right mind. I'd left Kansas to come to Colorado nine years before, following a dream. Now I was going back to the flatlands, not for a dream, but for respectability. Steady job. Confidence. Being able to pay the bills. I didn't even ask God about this part of it. I just asked him whether I should go or not, and he was silent. I made the decision myself.
God kept quiet because it wouldn't have done much good if he'd spoken up. I'd already made the decision. I wanted respect. I wanted to look like somebody. A succession of part-time jobs wasn't much of a resume. Besides, only nutcases and weirdos do things because God tells them to. I couldn't possibly be hearing God's voice; people who'd been Christians far longer than I said they only heard him occasionally, so who was I to claim to hear him, every day? Impossible. Self-delusion. God wept. I moved to Nebraska.
Being basically odd, I managed to make even that wider path a pretty strange deal. The company I worked for went out of business so I went to school. This third attempt ended as the other two had but by that time I had a good chance of a job in Los Angeles, so I came here. Even worse than Nebraska, but a good job. The dream got buried under even more money and respectability. I'm still here, 21 years later.
And yet, those few people who respect me, do so for reasons that have nothing to do with the job or the money or other practical concerns. They respect the fire they see occasionally, that comes out in sand sculpture or in my peculiar approach to following Jesus. A couple of years ago Lu said I have a warrior heart and I thought she was nuts. God cheered. Far down deep, yes, but she saw, with her incredible vision, through the thick skin of the drudge to the warrior. Nate and Debbie have made similar comments, and a few other through the years.
What's the difference today? The lesson seems to be not that my decision in the fall of 1980 was bad, but that the reasons for making that decision were not in keeping with my character as God had taught me. I was hard to teach back then. Well, I still am, having learned early that there's a lot more baloney than truth in this world. God had taken very good care of me. Why did I suddenly abandon his way? Because I wasn't aware enough to know what I was doing. I thought God was far behind, a passing fancy, and now it was time to enter the real world. Enough fantasy. Only drudges survive.
The only reason I survived that experience is that God, even though I slew him, yet he did serve me. Love in action, daily. It was a bad time. More than a few times I was ready to end it, but he always put something out there, another stepping stone so that as bleak as life was it never became completely hopeless. Until 2003 when I'd run out of stepping stones and desperation forced me to step into his lap.
You'd be nuts to believe this story. I believe it because I've lived it. That I'm still here is because God cares about me more than he cares about his reputation or his dignity. Now we seem to be moving beyond desperation because that's a poor motivation for long-term living. This is a brand-new thought, born about two hours ago, so I'm not sure where it will go. Thoughts guide life. God guides thoughts. Q.E.D. Go for it.
And there was one. In the middle of nowhere.
Lu is right. You do have a warrior heart. Perseverance isn't for drudges. Only warriors persevere.