The Elusive Great Life

Lately, I’ve been marveling – I suppose even lamenting – over the assumption by many folks that “the good life” is something you must wait for, or perhaps something that comes with qualifications. Such thoughts seem to often coincide with the belief that a great life is something that simply or eventually happens by some twist of events. I would suggest that a great life is something that one builds for himself; something that one puts together in pieces, much like building a wall. And the greatness of that life, again much like the greatness of a wall, is the result of the time and effort one takes to build it. Think about that for a moment, and imagine how many folks trek meander skulk through the years, waiting for a great life to build itself for them. Perhaps they imagine that a brilliant business idea will strike, or great wealth will befall them; perhaps they imagine a beautiful spouse may appear, or their boss will offer a lucrative promotion.

 

And years pass by. Literally, years. This gives me pause.

 

Let’s assume, for the moment, that you’re penniless. Or may we at least assume that the great life hasn’t struck for you? You may have even tried to build the life, but you’ve paused to wait for proper supplies and building materials to arrive. Maybe you’re still waiting for supplies, or maybe you’ve realized that those supplies aren’t coming.

I would ask you to stop at this moment, and look around. What do you see around you? What have you done with the few supplies you do have? Have you built anything yet? For you, will the promotion be the usher for the great life or merely a supplement. 

Do any of you know a builder? You know, somebody who builds houses or something similar. I do, and I’ve noticed something about builders. If you give a builder a weekend, some nails, a hammer, and a pile of lumber, then come back on Monday, and I assure you he will have built… I don’t know, a tree house, or box, or a shelf, or something! He’ll not say that he didn’t want to build anything because he couldn’t build EVERYthing. He’ll see what he could build – what he COULD build – with just what’s in the pile. Then he goes to work, and he builds.

I want to assure you that if you think it’s appropriate to waste years of your life planning for what you’ll do when life begins, then there is no great life coming for you. You see, success has nothing to do with position or wealth; nothing to do with cars or houses; nothing to do with watches or jewelry. Success is about taking whatever you have – anything you have – and building something amazing with it. There’s a fellow I know who is one of the greatest photographers I’ve personally met. This fellow tours all around the US and Europe just taking spectacular pictures of many things. Would you believe that I recently discovered that this fellow with this incredible life earns his living by power washing houses? And he doesn’t work for himself; he’s an hourly employee. The photographer didn’t wait for his promotion, and I would urge you to consider his lead; reflect on his vervacious (like verve, don’t judge me) attitude about building his life without delay; without supplies; without wasting a little time, then years, then a life that could’ve been great if it had only been built. I made up that word “vervacious”, but I’ll let you use it. Maybe put that word on your mirror tonight, and live that word tomorrow. Build your life. Build it broke, single, in debt, in a mud pit, in a tough job, but build it vervaciously.

Some Thoughts on Relationships

I have never really had much of a reason to sit and think long on this subject, but it has come up so many times in recent conversations that I couldn’t escape the nagging feeling that I should write about it. I’ll just begin, and give it my best.

When I turned twenty, I fell in love with Stephanie. Three years later, I married her. For those of you who haven’t met Steph, she is quite beautiful. Her beauty is, in fact, something so refined, so rare, so… beyond words that I’m at a loss wondering how to describe such a thing. Sometimes, when she and I are out with friends, I enjoy just keeping my distance in order to observe men as they attempt to speak to her, watching in amusement as they stumble about. This will certainly appear to be an ostentatious embellishment, but I can assure you it is not. On at least three occasions, while the two of us have dined out at a public restaurant, certain men have gotten up from their tables, left their wives, and approached mine just to tell her that she was, well… beautiful. Now, please don’t jump to conclusions about where all of this is leading. Steph’s beauty is not the focus of this essay; instead, it is a point that must be established in order for the essay to go in the direction that I’ve intended. People have said to me that I must be the luckiest man in the world to have the love and commitment of a woman who is so attractive. But I disagree. You see, Steph has never realized how beautiful she is. In fact, she often times complains that she must be the ugliest girl she has ever seen. So, if I were to base my appreciation for her only on her physical qualities, then she could quite possibly feel that my appreciation was either based on nothing, or that it was at best a feeling that would fade with time.

I met Steph through a friendship that I had developed with her brother Craig. The first time I saw her, I was stopping by her brother’s house to check in on him. How could I ever forget? She was lying on the couch reading a book. I still can remember, as I made my way through the room, simply being overwhelmed by her. I can think of nothing else to say in effort to better describe my thoughts at that moment of first seeing her. Needless to say, I was not disappointed in the least when I discovered that Craig was not home! Steph and I only spoke briefly that day, as I quickly ran out of things to say due to my nervousness. It would be months before we spoke again. Those months passed quickly however, and one day as I was talking to Craig, I asked him why he had not mentioned before that he had a sister. He replied, “Oh her. Yes, she has had a crush on you for so long now. I think maybe years.” My heart ascended into my lower mouth, dropped back down, bounced twice, and landed sideways wrapped tightly around three ribs. But I played it cool. To make the story short, I ended up calling her, asking her nervously to go out with me, she did, and now we live in a little house and have two small children named Alek and Taylor. Alek looks like me with Steph’s dimples, Taylor looks like Steph with my smile.

That moment when I first saw Steph has now been seven years ago. At the time, it was tremendously important to me that I made a way to once again see this beautiful girl who had, with a smile, elicited from within me a fantastic hope. But the thing that intrigues me the most, and the thing that has served as the inspiration behind this essay, is the mystical element of her; the girl behind the pretty face whom has captured my affections and held my heart with tremendous verve. You see, it has not been her looks that has served as the relational glue in our marriage. However much I do still enjoy looking at her, I have noticed that sometimes, when she sits up in bed first thing in the morning, she reminds me ever so much of Claire from LOST in the final season (stress the final season). The first time I observed this phenomenon, I screamed a little inside. But my point is that, rather than her looks, it is the person of her that has held my heart and my desires. Even though those blue eyes may have caught my attention initially, I have since realized that no matter what may happen to fade her beauty, I will still love her the same as I do now, which is more every day. I did not commit myself on the day of our marriage to her body or her radiant smile; I committed myself to the girl. Thus, no matter what happens to her physical attributes, as long as the girl is there, so is my commitment. C. S. Lewis wrote these words, “The idea that being in love is the only reason for remaining married really leaves no room for marriage as a contract or a promise at all. If love is the whole thing, then the promise can add nothing; the curious thing is that lovers themselves, while they remain really in love, know this better than those who talk about love.” Lewis also wrote, “A promise must be about things I can do, about actions: no one can promise to go on feeling a certain way. He might as well promise never to have a headache or always to feel hungry.” And,” Being in love is a good thing but it is not the best thing. There are many things below it, but there are also many things above it. You cannot make it the basis of a whole life. It is a noble feeling but it is still a feeling. Now no feeling can be relied upon to last in its full intensity, or even to last at all. Knowledge can last, principles can last, habits can last; but feelings come and go.” (Cited source: C. S. Lewis, Mere Christianity. From book three titled Christian Behavior: ch 6, Christian Marriage)