Sunday, January 26, 2014

Pep Talk: "A Terrific Tardiness"

Ever miss a deadline? It’s embarrassing for sure. Although, sometimes being tardy turns into something terrific.

I had that experience recently while straggling into the Denver Rescue Mission about ten minutes late for Thursday morning chapel. It’s my job to lead the service for the men (we call each other knuckleheads) living at DRM’s Lawrence Street facility. A larger than expected snowstorm had hit the Mile High City, snarling traffic. I sheepishly slid into a chair to listen to a man who had stepped forward in my absence.

He talked about his life. Exile was the dominant word as he described the struggles within his marriage, the struggles to have a child, the struggles with his faith. I think it’s fair to say many of us, for a variety of reasons, occasionally feel in exile, don’t we?

I wrote last week of such feelings when it comes to a teenage daughter. I know from talking with other men, I’m not alone there. The thoughts of exile might come from a longing for a new career, might have roots in a relationship gone sour, might have roots in God knows where.

Exile. Defined in Oxford as “being sent away as punishment.” Often being sent away as punishment seems unjust doesn’t it? Being laid off from a job, served divorce papers or no longer receiving invitations to cherished endeavors and events, to name just a few. Life in exile ain’t easy.

I leaned in closer as this man continued to speak. He was referencing the book of Jeremiah, when Jewish faithful were in exile long ago and how the wise words stated there had inspired him.

“When my wife and I were separated from one another, that was exile,” he admitted. “But we made a decision to use that time of exile to work on ourselves.” Admirable.

What do we do when thrown into exile? It would be smart to follow this handsome man’s example and look inward. Reflect. Ask oneself a question like, “What am I bringing to the party that’s producing this exile?”

That was certainly a question I asked of myself after two marriages unraveled in similar fashion. It was certainly a question when another television job ended with a layoff. It was certainly a question when seemingly perfect partnerships in business don’t materialize as envisioned. Exile. A tough place to dwell.

The question becomes, “How will we handle being sent away?”

Admiration for a super sub, like the backup quarterback coming off the bench and leading the team to victory, continued to grow as he described how the exile from his wife ended with them reuniting and deciding after years of trying to conceive, to consider other options.

They became foster parents to two lovely young girls and quickly realized a desire to adopt. Things were progressing as planned. Optimism and joy, after so much time in exile, were overflowing. The couple’s hearts bursting with anticipation of, finally, parenthood!

Then came a scheduled custody appearance, where the biological parents have the right to appear and make a case why it might be wise to allow the children to return from where they fled. This was the third and final hurdle to clear. The woman who brought these children into this world had decided not to appear at the first two opportunities.

But she did this time.

“We were in shock. We were fearful again. It felt like exile all over again” said this man, with tears flowing abundantly, to the attentive gathering. “We had to leave the kids alone for three hours. We didn’t know what was going to happen.”

Once again, the latest exile bore great fruit. “The mother was just meeting with the kids to say goodbye and wish them the best.”

Exile is tough. We often want to give up and throw in the towel. Surrender.

Learn from a guy who stepped in for a simple dude from Missouri who was running late on a snowy Centennial State morning, keep the faith. Persevere in that exile. Return stronger than before.

Thank God I was late because nobody needed to hear this dude’s message, I later learned he’s an employee of DRM, more than the guy writing this Pep Talk. What a terrific tardiness that was.

Have a good week!

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