I was eight years old when I decided to be extraordinary, show the world that I was a cut above other kids.
“Grab your plastic shovels,” I announced to the neighborhood kids, “I’m digging a hole to China.”
We worked our way into the crust of the earth, one scoop at a time.
“I don’t wanna dig,” a five year old wailed.
At that moment I realized –
My achievement would be accomplished through other people’s pain.
“Get busy,” I yelled in my best parental imitation, “Or, I’m gonna spank you!”
I spanked him on his bottom with the flat of my eight year old hand.
That little slacker ran all the way home.
His mom called my mom.
I got a spanking of my own.
But, I kept on trying. I figured I needed fame and fortune to survive. I had spent my childhood following my dad and mom from cinder block church to cinder block church, wearing hand-me-downs and thrift store shoes.
I wanted to be somebody else.
Someone clever and amazing,
someone remarkable and daring.
Eventually, I grew up. I got married, had kids. One afternoon I found myself wedged between my husband and my oldest son on a couch.
We sat in the Dean of Education’s office, far away from home.It was the weekend of my son’s university graduation.
He and the Dean discussed learning styles while my well-educated husband added to the conversation periodically.
I said nothing.
The level of academia in the room literally took my breath away.
I couldn’t think.
Suddenly, I realized who I really was.
A grown woman with nothing to show for her life.
No certified degree.
No prestigious job.
Not even a title in the church.
I was nothing.
At home. I had considered motherhood and marriage my journey-through-the-center-of-the-earth.
My crowning achievement.
Now, I felt stupid and lazy.
Old and empty-handed.
“Lord Jesus,” I prayed silently, frantically,
“I’m about to lose it.
Somehow make me disappear,get me out of the room before I burst into tears and really embarrass myself.”
I didn’t disappear, but I did make it out of the room before I bawled and bellowed all over the place.
After the graduation ceremonies, I returned home where most people were as ordinary as me.
But, I still felt the effects of my epiphany.
Last night, I watched a sitcom episode about a man coming to grips with turning forty.
His party was a fiasco, partly due to his denial of the passing of time.
“I’m forty,” he finally sobbed, “….I’ve done nothing with my life.”
“You’re a wonderful father,” another actor consoled him, “You graduated from clown college,
you’ve been to France…”
The fact was – the birthday boy grieved, but not alone.
He was surrounded by the people he loved.
Relationships are really what matter when it’s all said and done.
The God we worship.
The friendships we invest in.
The strangers we invite into our lives.
The sharing of ourselves in a million little ways.
No credentials of greatness needed to live a meaningful life.