I heard her say, “it is very competitive, but I think you can do it.” When a man falls it is so hard to say when. Is it iced coffee? No. That’s just when people knew. I fell here – – setting my gaze so intently that I mortgaged the present to attain the future. I’ve told Mrs. Pascal many times – – “I’m so glad that you didn’t know me in high school – – I was unworthy of you.” The problem is, no one knew it. Not even, especially not even, me. Love Letter – – part 11 from the beginning
Isn’t that the horror of pride? It is low visibility – – I had no friend close enough to see me or confront me. And it is low awareness – – like trying to read silver fine print on plastic wrap just a wisp in front of your eyes. The Academy application process was stringent and it did start the sophomore year for the successful. High grades were not enough. They valued physical fitness and community leadership as well. My school had few clubs and no sports. I became the sophomore class president and extended my commuting bike rides to 30 mile training excursions. I ran more, resumed lifting weights to conquer the dreaded 3 over hand pull ups that I must do and even joined a rugby club. I told my Mom it was less dangerous than football.
I became more involved in my church youth group and less involved with Jesus. Who knew it? As a parent that frightens me. Oh for grace to love my sons and to be an eager, engaged protector-provider for them and my bride. My father’s passivity, compounded by an extended recovery, could not or would not restrain me. My mother’s opinion mattered less and less to me every day. A strong willed son raised by a controlling mother either collapses into her gravity or escapes at great cost. My path would be the latter. Layer upon layer I hardened. I forgot what I had been forgiven and I loved less. And by consensus criteria for success I was thriving. The youth pastor with his relevance and trendy clothes had no idea. Who will stand for people like me? I needed a father to see my rebellion. I needed a father to correct and rebuke me. I needed a father to kick my ass. My father could not. My Father would.
What else happened in my heart? On a visit to my Dad during his first recovery, still in the summer before the sophomore year, I sat with him then went to explore as he dozed off. Two indelible marks were made on my heart that day – – one yin, the other yang. For good I was moved by the evening flag ceremony. I’ve been to many more with the Boy Scouts and I’m still moved. My Dad used to cry. For the bad, I visited the gift shop and went to the section I’m always drawn to – – books. Magazines were there too for the benefit of our soldiers and their visitors. Some have said that a boy will always remember his first pornographic image. In my case it only took 23 years to forget. January 1, 2011 brought an end to my intermittent but pernicious battle with impurity. Honestly, if the battle had not been decisively won (I must constantly stand guard), I would not have entered this friendship. That is not a part of my story that I’ll elaborate for you. Needless to say I know what I’ve been forgiven and love more. It is a story for my sons – – I’ve warned and encouraged all three – – and a story for my brothers in faith. Sins of impurity are common and isolating – – low visibility, high awareness.
So the sophomore year progressed and I was doing well by all appearances. The problem with walking far from God is that it makes life easier. Not better, but easier. I make a point with my boys, P1 especially, that I was quite nerdy. That is true and I suppose that I still am but the point of that assertion is reassurance – – things work out well for nerds. But this was not at all the same intense social isolation I felt in middle school. Nerd? Yes. But I was the number one ranked nerd in a competitive magnet school where this was more admired than shunned. Although sophomore class presidency was less a popularity contest than freshman – – it was only a little less. Actually, Mrs. Pascal would have liked me. I was friendly and cheerful. I always helped those who appeared to struggle. But I was not yet even becoming the man God intended for her and I was too selfish at that point to recognize her demure, elegant beauty.
-to be continued-
Photo credit: Handwritten letter by Descarte: by PHGCOM [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0) via Wikimedia Commons