An Empty Room

randomlychad  —  August 16, 2018 — Leave a comment

Across the hall, and a little to the left, just a few feet over beige carpeting from the master bedroom doors is a room which has been continuously occupied for the past seventeen years. The sounds of bedtime Bible stories, of laughter, tears, Nerf gun wars echo down to me over the years. Late night gaming, fragging zombies, the smells of sweat (teen spirit) and Axe… The sounds and smells of a life; of a boy waking, sleeping, farting, growing have faded into memory.

Because the room, the one across the hall from mine, now lies empty. The door, marked with the imprint of a fist flung in frustration, and so often closed over the past few years, now stands open–a testament to its utter lack of occupancy. It’s normal, natural, healthy, for children to grow, and go, but it all seems so soon. “Sunrise, sunset, swiftly flow the years,” as the song goes. “I don’t remember growing older…” When did he? Whither that little boy with his thick, brown mop of hair, mischievous as the day is long? Where did he go?

When did become the young man who has now gone out into the wide world on his own?

I see that empty room–passing by it in morning as I’m heading downstairs, walking past it again as head into my bedroom in the evening…

I see it, and can’t help the ache welling up in me. Twenty years have come and gone since he was born, but it feels like no time at all. But I wanted more of it. One more day being a family of four, one more meal together, one more movie night, one more night knowing we were all safe and sound together under our roof. But it was not to be. He was ready; it was time to spread his wings, and fly the nest his mother and I built stick-by-stick, branch-by-branch, over the long years.

It’s normal, natural, right for him to go, but dammit it hurts!

His empty room isn’t just a room; every time I see it, walk past it, stand in the doorway, not crossing its threshold, I the ache of an empty place in my soul. He doesn’t need me in the ways that he used to. The relationship, as it should, is changed. Began changing many long, moons ago. But it nevertheless caught me off guard, took me by surprise…

Knocked the wind right out of my sails.

My son has moved out. And I didn’t quite expect to feel all these feels. But there it is regardless. I love him. And that’s what matters. I expect that empty room-sized ache will continue for sometime, to be perhaps eventually swallowed up by other joys someday as his bachelorhood eventually becomes marriage, begets grandchildren.

Aches and joys and empty rooms… Such is the stuff of life. The good, and the bad.

May we savor every moment, every breath.

Taking the challenge out of life also largely takes the fun out of it as well. Don’t get me wrong here; I’m most thankful for an indoor job, and the ability to provide for my family it affords me. I’m saying that if we aren’t on guard against it that it’s altogether too easy to wake up one day as Miss Havisham (from Great Expectations), wondering why life seems to be something that happens to someone else (just not, you know, us).

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Creed II is coming this fall; as with all Rocky stories, it’s about overcoming obstacles, going the distance. Fundamentally, that is the element of story itself: a character who wants something, endures hardships, and overcomes obstacles to achieve that thing. The fact of the matter is that life is story. We are all of us living a story–living stories. Where we get tripped up is that we often delude ourselves into the belief that life is a movie about moi.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

I don’t want to speak for you, but in my life those times when I think I’m entitled to this, that, or the other thing–that life owes me–are generally the darkest, bleakest days. Not to say that there’s not such a thing a healthy belief in one’s self, one’s abilities, but rather that this requires an honest, humble assessment.

And it doesn’t happen in a vacuum. I, we, need others around to: encourage, rebuke, guide, cheer. Often we have to get out our own way to hear just what others have to say. I mean it’s true in life, and it’s true in the Rocky films. Rocky wouldn’t be the Rocky we’ve all come to know and love without: Mickey, Apollo, Adrian, Paulie, and now Creed. And Creed wouldn’t be who he is without Rocky by his side.

That’s really the crux of it: we, like Rocky, have to be willing to put in the hard work, believe we can even when it feels like we can’t, listen to the wisdom of others, get out of our own way, then invest in others, and pass the hard won lessons on.

Not to put too personal a spin on it, but my wife and I are in a season now where we are facing difficult health challenges, are in a season of transition as our oldest child is preparing to leave home, and our younger one approaches the teen years. All in the midst of financial concerns, helping our aging parents, looking towards our own retirement years (not really all that far off). And honestly some days it doesn’t feel as if we’re overcoming at all.

It’s rough. But it’s life. And if there’s one things that’s true it’s that if there’s any blessing to pain, any comfort in it, it’s that it means we’re still alive and kicking. Still in the arena. To feel pain one has to be alive. Let’s be honest: the dead don’t feel it. And truthfully, more than the good times–the easy times–it’s the hard times that shape us. If my faith in God has taught me anything it’s that. In a sense, Rocky (and Creed after him) is like Jesus, “who for the joy set before him endure the cross (the training, the blows, the scorn), despising the shame.”

So, yes, the hard times shape us–If we allow them to.

I’m still walking through it. My wife is walking through it. And chances are so are you.

How do you go the distance in your life?

For those that pray, please pray for my wife, Lisa; her body reacted so strongly to a recent allergy test that it had to be stopped because the risk of inducing anaphylaxis was too strong.

Not living in her skin, I can only imagine how she feels, how hard this is on her. To me, it feels like the world, and her body, are trying to kill her.

I feel so sad and overwhelmed.

I mean I know God is good… It’s just when is something going to go her way in life? When are things going to break good, and not bad?

There’s a whole other host of health issues she’s been dealing with that I’m not going to get into…

I guess we just want some mercy and grace.

–Chad

Life and Loss

randomlychad  —  March 23, 2018 — Leave a comment

It has been a tumultuous couple of years. I suppose, as much at is rather not admit it, I’m aging. Which means people close to me are aging as well.

It means change.

Learning to adapt to changing bodies, energy levels, interests…

Loss.

It’s axiomatic. The older get, the more people we lose. Like in this last year, we lost my wife’s beloved grandma, a close family friend…

Grief has become a constant companion. If not so much overtly anymore, it’s still there just beneath the surface. And it doesn’t have a timetable. It just is. Time itself heals nothing, and closure seems to be just an abstract concept, an illusion. I don’t think we’re ever really over the loss of those close to us.

There’ll be a memory, a familiar place, a previously shared experience which brings those piercing pangs of grief right back…

Life is hard. And it doesn’t seem to be getting any easier. More is required of me, expected of me, as I’m closing in on 50 than ever before. The only answer I know is Jesus. And that his grace is for the cracks.

And the crackpots like me.

–Chad