You’re Mist, Not a Fireman (or a ‘Church’)

It’s common enough that it has entered into our cultural conscience: when boys grow up, they tend want to be firemen, serve in the Army or aspire towards pretty much anything involving something dangerous. I’m confident that more than a few psychologists and evolutionary biologists have sufficiently handled the reasons for this fact (and there is a lot of fact there…).

But this wasn’t true for me.

In fact, I don’t ever remember having any aspiration as a youngster that one would aptly call ‘conventional’. Never desired to be a police officer or in the CIA; never wanted to drive race cars or explode things.

No, I wanted to be a ‘church’.

A church?

Yes.

I was about five-years-old or thereabouts when one day at mass I notified my mother that I would be a ‘church’ when I grew up. Unsure what that meant, she asked and in answer I pointed to the priest up front. ‘Like him,’ I said.

I never became a priest. A hellion teenager, I went through a conversion around 18 years of age and once I was in college I did in fact entertain a vocation to the priesthood, but with the help of a few people, including more than one priest, decided that wasn’t my calling.

In fact, nothing that I ever ‘wanted’ has panned out over time in my almost-forty years on this earth.

Before ever entering the undergraduate program in theology at Franciscan University of Steubenville (Ohio) I wanted to get a PhD in theology and teach, but abandoned that idea when I met the woman I would marry—sacrificing my life and desires for her desire to be a stay-at-home mother in a two-income-earner society.

Never became a ‘church’, and few if any of the major wants or plans of my life have gone according to ‘plan’, or at least according to my desires. I find myself wondering if the career I took on for her sake is what I will be doing in the years to come.

Such a cold reality is certain to resonate with at least some of my readers.

You knew you were going to have a family in the same small town that you grew up in, yet you find yourself across the country and your parents rarely see you or your children. You knew what your gifts were and you got the degree or degrees needed to work in the field, but a few events, one ‘opportunity’ and a decade later you find yourself in an office daydreaming of what might have been. You found the love of your life and knew that you would make it through the modern obstacles, provide a stable environment for your children to grow up in and live out your days with your ‘best friend’, yet you find yourself divorced while your spouse runs off with her lover and takes your children with her—and with that, your ‘family’. You couldn’t wait to hear the first cry of that baby, yet the joy immediately turned to concern and your life yet-lived flashed before you as you realized that this child’s disabilities would require your aid for the rest of your life.

Life throws us those curve balls. We make mistakes and despite our sincere repentance, we can not control the fallout. There are few constants on this road.

Yet, regardless of what happens, we must have faith that God is provident in our lives. When pain and evil greet us, we can be confident that even there God can and will direct all things to good (Rom. 8:28).

“Come now, you who say, ‘Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit’—yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. Instead you ought to say, ‘if the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.’” (James 4:13-15). [1]

This isn’t a call to a life of immobility—we must do the ‘next right thing’ as an old friend of mine would say. We are called to work, to pray, to do what is right. But we must be careful projecting too far into the future, assuming that we are in control of our own destiny. We aren’t; God is. And He is there even in the midst of the pain and confusion that surrounds you—He can and will direct it to the good. Be attentive and listen for His whisper. [2]

[1] See also: Proverbs 3:5-6; 16:9, 33; 19:21; 20:24; Jeremiah 10:23; 29:11; Amos 3:6; Luke 22:31; 1 Timothy 2:3-4; 1 Thess 5:18; Luke 9:23; Micah 6:8; Hebrews 10:6; Romans 8:28

[2] That, and mingle in, if you would like, a bit of Viktor Frankl’s logotherapy. His book Man’s Search for Meaning should be near the top of your reading list.

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