I think it’s harmful to think of life as a competition. There have been times in my life when I didn’t think about life in these terms, only to suddenly think that the whole world was playing and I was suddenly in last place. Then there are times when I have some good conversations with friends and I realize that they are in a constant fear of losing the game. Or are completely oblivious to this game and are enjoying life haphazardly, weaknesses and strengths and all. The former makes me feel like I have no intention to win the game, the latter that I have no intention to play it.
I think what made February so turbulent was that I got swept up into the game. It wasn’t even that I was having so much fun winning, or was even on the edge of victory - it was that I was ruled with fear over losing. The good days were good because I made some breakthrough on my project, the bad days were bad because I had experienced a setback. The good was far outweighed by the bad and never quite good enough. All of this makes me remember my paradigm about life and faith and work and why I don’t throw more identity into my bragging rights.
Last month, I started reading Orthodoxy by GK Chesterton (and subsequently felt really cool about it, because this book was written in 1908). I just finished the chapter on optimists and pessimists and how he thinks Christians are on both ends of the spectrum - they are optimists in how much they love this world and the people in it, they are pessimists regarding the current state of the world and the people in it. Unimaginably precious and valued, but corrupted, broken.
Chesterton says it is like we have been shipwrecked. The world in its current state is not what it was meant to be. It was meant to be far greater - and we ourselves were meant to be far greater.
Running with that analogy, those shipwrecked are less concerned with winning and losing, but in life itself. Not a game to be played, but a life to be lived and loved, a story to be told and retold. I’d suggest, as a Christian, that this is not some subjective story that each person gets to write themselves and make whatever they want of it, but we all actually find ourselves in a larger story that is already being told, that has been unfolding since the beginning of time. It’s a romantic thriller, the man Jesus Christ being killed for the sake of humanity, defeating death, and upending kingdoms ever since, calling His followers to sacrifice everything in order to fight for justice and life in the face of adversity. It’s far greater than fighting to advance my own career, that’s for sure.
Anyways, this is the sort of thing I’ve been thinking about after reading Chesterton. And after being so consumed by work and making a name for myself. I know that I ought not put my identity in work, but I find myself still doing it. After all of the congratulations for getting a job at Facebook… I find myself fearful that I won’t prove myself now that I’m there, like I could get fired for underperforming. Those who interview without getting offers.. they never really know if they could have made it at Facebook. They technically never get the chance. But me - I got the chance - and if I fail, I will know that I failed. That freaks me out. But I’m working on not getting freaked out about this sort of thing.
Suzi and I have been praying in the afternoons to help keep me grounded. It’s actually pretty remarkable - I’ve had really unproductive days where prayer was like one of the last things I wanted to do, but doing it everyday kinda keeps me from falling too far from both acknowledgement of God and communication with Suzi.
Other than that, all of these things happened:
- read The Index Card by Helaine Olen and Harold Pollack, recommended to me by Chris. It was a pretty good read with lots of pragmatic tips about getting on top of one’s finances
- started physical therapy for my knee, but it’s been getting considerably better after doing a bunch of hip exercises and taping my knee so that it gets pulled to the right instead of naturally to the left. I’ve done many easy 15-20 minute runs over the last week or two, which has been somewhat cathartic for me, especially as Seattle approaches summer weather
- started working on the church website again, as I’ve finally realized that our performance was pretty terrible
- almost done memorizing Romans 11, I basically didn’t memorize anything for a couple of weeks
- read 2 Corinthians up to 2 Timothy
- participated in my first Facebook hackathon, but I was somewhat frustrated that I didn’t get as much done as I wanted. It was about 12 hours long at the Living Computer Museum in SODO
- our church threw a ping pong food and friends night that garnered a lot of enthusiasm, and I led an outreach event for our small group at UW - we watched an episode of Adventure Time and then broke up into groups of 3 and discussed some rather open ended questions. This was actually a blast and I was really excited with how it turned out
- Suzi and I had a dumpling party at our place for Chinese New Year
Finally, I’m writing from an airport in Phoenix, Arizona. Suzi and I have been down here for the past weekend for my Uncle Jimmy’s funeral. I didn’t grow up particularly close to family, but for a few summers in a row, we’d drive our white minivan to South Carolina and spend a couple of weeks with my Uncle Jimmy and his family. One time, he let me “help” him build a staircase in his basement. Quite a while later, he was the one who spoke at my wedding reception when it was determined that someone from each family should get to say something. I’m not sure I remember any of what he said that day, but I remember he had pulled out his Bible and spoke from it. He had all of our respect, and he modeled for us quiet leadership, good works, and a life of faithful service to his wife, family, and churches. I know he had one objective in life - to love the Lord with all his heart, mind, soul, and strength. I know his pursuit of that objective has facilitated and encouraged my pursuit of that objective - and for that, I am thankful, and I praise God. For him, to live is Christ, but to die is gain.