Monday, April 22, 2013

Questions, Insecurities, and Thinking about Life

IS FAYE ADAMS OF DeSOTO, MO. Congratulations, Faye!!!


Our son, David, wrote this early in his career as a backpacker. He was insecure and worried about three days on the trail with a guy who must have been a Super-Christian. The italicized words are my emphasis, trying to show David's insecurity at the time this was written.

I approached my first backpacking trip with quite a bit of trepidation. Would my knockoff pack from my last trip to Vietnam and my cheap Academy tent get the job done? Would I be able to carry all that gear the miles and elevation we planned? How would I keep up with Berry, who had done this quite a bit and runs marathons for goodness sake? Would my cheap little stove actually heat water above 8000 feet? And the biggest question of all, what in the world was I going to talk to Berry Simpson about for THREE DAYS?
Fortunately, another friend came to the rescue when it came to gear. Paul Ross wanted to go with us but was unable get time off work. So, he encouraged me to borrow some of his equipment. I went over to his garage one Sunday night after church and we set up his tent and went through his checklist. I was impressed. I wondered just what the difference could be in my tent and his, and I discovered that one of the biggest differences was about three pounds. In backpacking, every ounce matters so that was huge. His sleeping bag was perfect for the season, and it packed smaller and was lighter than mine. He had a small cookset designed just for backpacking, while mine was aimed at car campers. He insisted I take his hiking poles, and I’ll admit I was reluctant to use them (“Those are for old guys”) but in the end I was more grateful for the poles than almost anything else I took. I hadn’t planned on using a sleeping pad, but he encouraged me to take his. “If you can’t be comfortable on this, you can’t be comfortable,” he said. He was right and it was more than worth the weight.
On the morning we were to start, I picked up my loaded 68 pound pack to carry it to the front door and one of the straps broke. Recriminations. Despair. You can’t go backpacking without a backpack! What am I going to do now? Paul had offered his, a very serious and very nice internal frame job, but I had wanted to try mine so I turned him down. I knew he went to work early and was pretty sure he was already gone. Fortunately I called just minutes before his wife left for the day and she agreed to leave his very expensive pack sitting unguarded on the front porch for me. I hoped that was alright with Paul and that it was still there when I got there, and I got there as fast as I could.
Now everything is in Berry’s truck and we’re on the way, with about three hours of truck time ahead of us. I had spent some time thinking of Really Clever Questions and Topics, and trotted out the first few. Great conversation followed. “Hey, maybe this will be all right,” I thought. “But I’m going through my list too fast. Gotta slow down, Dave, get more in-depth with these topics. Remember its THREE DAYS.” Things were going well but I was still nervous.
The problem is I’ve never thought of myself as Clever or Interesting. I’d rather talk about football than philosophy and Berry’s a philosophy guy. I read Clancy and Grisham and he reads Yancy and McManus. He’s been to John Eldredge’s “Wild at Heart” Boot Camp and I’ve never even read the book. He’s written a book and is working on another, and my college Great American Novel dreams died years ago in the law library as I grew sick of writing legal memos. For years I’ve read and enjoyed and been challenged by his weekly essays, constantly telling myself one day I would get off my duff and write but deep down believing that day would never come. I had even tried to journal on mission trips to Costa Rica, Germany, and Vietnam, and on my sabbatical to Israel earlier this year, but everything just degenerated to lists and notes on the Israeli guide’s excellent lectures on the places we visited there. I had four really nice journals, each with a page or two filled in then nothing. Another friend went on a mission trip to India last year and I read his journal, which was full of insight and candid thoughts and it was captivating. Once, again, I just didn’t measure up.
When you get down to it, that’s the problem. I do too much measuring. Another guy in our church just happens to have a similar story to mine: he is a preacher’s kid, he went to Baylor, he married a nurse, he pursues a life of ministry, and we even enjoy many of the same hobbies. Unfortunately, he is smarter, taller, skinnier, hipper, and better than I am at everything. I heard him speak recently and he talked about the importance of finding what you’re passionate about and what you’re great at, and I knew this was from The Enemy but I sat there thinking I’m not great at anything, and there really aren’t very many things I’m even pretty good at. In my woodworking I have learned the critical importance of accurate measurements and dead-on measuring and marking tools. I often tell my kids “If you ask the wrong questions, you will always get the wrong answers.” In woodworking, you have to measure to and from the correct points or the information you get doesn’t match the question you’re trying to answer. Yet, in my life, I constantly find myself using poor tools and measuring from the wrong points. I know I’m to measure myself against Jesus Christ and not people, but it sure is easy to compare myself to others, and once I start down that path I always come up lacking. I need to listen to my own advice—“If you ask the wrong questions, you will always get the wrong answers.” I was measuring myself against Berry, and I needed to stop and just be myself.
So I started listening, and I didn’t detect any condescension in his tone or his words. The more I listened the more I began to realize he didn’t think of me as The Guy with No Expertise. In fact, he asked me some questions that told me he thought of me as knowledgeable, intelligent, and a person who has opinions worth listening to. The conversations continued and I began to realize that while he is pretty sharp, we had a lot to talk about. We even got around to football and although he is pretty spiritual in almost all of his life, he went to the pagan University of Oklahoma and just can’t see the truth that any school that names its teams after cheaters (what, after all, is an Oklahoma Sooner?) doesn’t deserve all that devotion. I, on the other hand, as a longsuffering fan of the Baylor Bears, am surely earning jewels in my crown in Heaven for following and suffering with God’s favorite team.
Since talking with Berry was turning out to be a positive experience, I began to wonder if plowing through “Wild at Heart” might be worthwhile as well. I had taken far too many pounds of books, I realized when we got to the campground at the end of the first day, and one of those was “Wild at Heart.” I was determined to read some from each just to justify, at least in my mind, bringing them all. I read the first chapter and it grabbed me. I finished the book shortly after the trip and I’m looking forward to sitting down with Berry to talk about it (OK, actually I’m a bit nervous about that but I’m working on it). I learned a lot from the book but there are several things I want to try to sort out with Berry’s help. I have most of Eldredge’s other books and I am eager to get started on them as well.
And if you’re still reading, you’ve figured out by now that I am writing. I wrote my first piece the day we got back. Berry dropped me off at my house and only after he took off did I realize no one was home and I hadn’t brought a key. Fortunately, Jason’s Deli is just down the street and I did have a debit card so I grabbed my journal and over soup and a sandwich the words just flowed out. I wrote about trying to eat the fruit of a prickly pear and I thought it turned out OK, so here I am six or eight entries later still writing. I am hoping these are helpful to someone, not just writing for the sake of writing. I think the jury is still out on that one but I’m still willing to work at it, so we’ll see.
Hope you enjoyed our son's guest blog today. If you did, please leave a note. 

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