“I’m supposed to be writing something, but I can’t think of anything to write!”
I complain to my daughter.
“What?” She says.
“What should I write about? I can’t think of anything.”
It’s been a long two weeks. At first I was looking forward to a time of exile. Perhaps I could accomplish something. My life is the endless quest to accomplish, accomplish, accomplish….but it seems as if God always has other plans.
I am doing dishes. The dishwasher is broken, so I do them by hand. And it never fails. I drain the water. And clean the sink. And I find one more. Just one more. Just finish that one, and then you can sit. Then you can write. Then you can read. Then you can learn that sonata you’ve wanted to learn. Just one more.
But after that one, there is just one more….
But life doesn’t give you the instruction manual. I see myself at sixteen. I am full of ambition and hope. I see my High School yearbook, full of promises and dreams. I read the “Stay in touch!” from the people that I haven’t spoken to since they wrote that close to 40 years ago…
My brief foray into video games happened at age 15. It was 1978. Asteroids, or some such. I put my quarter into the machine and waited for the instructions to tell me what to do. And while I waited the machine beeped. And then it said, “Game Over”.
I never played again. I don’t like feeling stupid.
At 20, I’m in college trying to fit in, trying to be someone else. I am trying so hard not to be the guy who can’t even figure out Asteroids. I don’t know how people behave. I am keenly aware that I look at the world differently and I loathe myself. I study what other people do and try to imitate them. I don’t know how to matter to anyone, and in my quest to matter to anyone, I lose the friends who care about me. The game was over before I even started.
But there is always another change. So move. Get another job. Pay some more bills. Try to get to a point where I am not paycheck to paycheck and I might even get a few dollars put aside.
But there are only so many hours in the day, and so many of them are working, working, working. And there are bills. And they pile up. And you have to put food on the table. And there are diapers. I’ll get to writing after just one more. Pay off one more loan. Work one more job.
If I could accomplish something, maybe I could get my father to pay attention and see me. If I could just do more maybe my life would matter. Maybe I could leave a legacy behind…
I think about it from time to time. But there are 12 hour work days. One right after another. Horrible pay. No advance. Year after year. Putting food on the table. Paying bills. Just one more, and then I can start my life’s work, my life goal.
Maybe then I won’t end in a mass grave where no one knows my name…
Do more. Work harder…and finally, you hit middle age and then come the chronic illnesses.
For many, many years now my wife and I have had one life-threatening, rare illness right after another. Some have no cure. Some involve surgeries. Some we just live with. Constant pain. Dislocations. Heart trouble. Ruptured colons. Ehlers Danlos. Complex Regional Pain Syndrome.
Maybe I can get something accomplished when the next round is finished. But there seems to always be just one more…
And then you hit fifty five and the machine starts to beep at you. The day when the neon flashes “Game over” is far closer than it used to be. And I still haven’t written that book. I still haven’t done anything that really matters. I still haven’t finished that Sonata. Wrote that music. Accomplished anything, really. I’ll get to it someday.
And then the exile. Quarantine. Outcast, unclean. Locked away.
I say to myself, “This is my life’s goal! I now have plenty of time and nowhere to go!”
But my wife is so sick she can’t get out of bed. My daughter needs full-time care. The dishes need done. The laundry is piling up. Just one more…
“What do I write about, Maggie?”
“I don’t know anything. I don’t get those words…but look, the tree is starting to get yellow…”
And I look, and sure enough the broom bush is starting to blossom.
And the jasmine is breaking open its perfumed buds into tiny white flowers; and the roses are in bud; and birds are singing.
And I think about it….
I put some tomato plants into the ground, and I think about it.
I trim some bushes and I think about it. I pick some mint and make a mojito and I think about it.
This evening I zoomed with my grandson in Colorado. He laughed at my ostrich puppet and called me “Grandpa”. I thought about that too.
And I thought that maybe I have been looking at this whole thing all wrong.
Maybe I’m not just sitting by the asteroid machine waiting for it to start. Maybe I’ve been knocking them all back one after another my whole life. Or maybe life isn’t a video game without instructions after all and the smartest thing I ever did was just walk away from that stupid game and went outside. I just wish I could have embraced that about myself a lot earlier.
Instead of life being about how much we accomplish, maybe we should just learn how to rest. Maybe that is what it is about. It isn’t about putting away more money in the bank, or leaving a legacy, or making your life matter, or getting a high score – because in the long run, none of those things will make me matter at all.
Maybe it is finally realizing that I DO matter, because Christ died for me and has restored me to his image and not a hair can fall from my head without my heavenly father…
And maybe I’ve been so busy trying to win some imaginary game, hoping that some imaginary person might recognize my worth that I forgot how to just live.
Youthful habits are hard to break, though. But I am going to try.
I’m going to try to just sit and listen to the birds. I’m going to see the jasmine and watch the roses open.
And most of all, I’m going to love my wife, continue to perfect Lebanese Hashweh and maybe just play the piano because I enjoy it, and not because I have anything to prove.
And I pray above all else that my heavenly father will forgive me for all the time I have wasted trying to prove something that didn’t need proving. And instead, I need him to teach me how to just stop and rest and finally know what it means to be accepted in the Beloved – to listen to the music. To quit talking. Quit overthinking everything. And just walk through the woods. Listen to that bullfrog outside. Smell the jasmine. Watch TV with my wife and daughter and praise God that I have them to walk through this valley with.
Sometimes I forget what a tremendous blessing it is to have a wife. And not only that, but a wife with whom I am never alone. 25 years of marriage, and I have not had one day alone, even when she is ill. Not everyone can say that, and that, it seems to me, is far greater than any earthly blessing. I wouldn’t trade that for anything.
So I gave my daughter a hug. Now I know what to write. I’ll get to it in a minute. After one more dish….
27 responses to “Just a little more…”
I feel like that all the time. I often think back to the little history I know. All people did was work, barely scrape by to put clothes or food on their backs and work. Maybe have a pint.
I think it is like that elsewhere in the impoverished nations.
Maybe it isn’t you or I , maybe it is some pipe dream somebody or our culture told us life was about?
Why your wife bed bound? Sorry to hear about that.
The joys of never ending housework lol. Thank you Sam for the reminder once again what’s important. It hit home when you said you hoped the Father would forgive wasted time. Fortunately he already has, He is risen! Have a blessed Easter.
This is the best thing I’ve read ll week. Thank you.
Sam, how this resonated and touched me. I have tears. Maybe my difficulties are different, different health issues, different heartaches, and maybe some different dark battles of the soul, but so much overlap in the just the pain of the struggle, the overwhelming heaviness of it all, and the fight for joy in spite of it all. Thank you for sharing your heart and reminding me once again I am not alone.
Pastor Powell. When my life hit bottom somewhere in the mid-end of last year, two people kept my little boat afloat. Diane Langberg’s podcast on “Church as Refuge” was one of them. A blog by a man who thinks a bit differently, sees things in more colour and doesn’t just do small talk (small talk ….yeah … um …. is that the same thing as “fine print”???) was the other.
Thank you Pastor Powell. That I didn’t scuttle my ship.
Please take your walk outside. Please listen to the birds. Please rejoice in the life you were given by your Heavenly Father. But thank you for writing. Thank you for all the times you’ve shared yourself on your blog as “one more thing”. I don’t know that you feel like your life is big and awesome and you’ve changed the world. But in this day of celebrity pastors who fall like flies, of entrepreneurs who lead the church instead of shepherds, I think the crowd of people that may seek you out in heaven to say thank you for sounding the call of truth, for being a voice of love and for having the ring of authenticity may shock you.
I will be one of them.
Thank you for giving up video games and for finding something else to do.
You are appreciated. So much.
Thank you so much for your kind words. If I lead just one person to find peace and rest, I will consider it a life well-lived ❤️
Pastor Powell, I can think of two people closer to home for you that are experiencing some degree of peace and rest in the middle of horrible pain and sickness because of you today! (Thank you for sharing a little about your daughter – I have been wondering how she is doing!)
Spiritually, I don’t know how big the number would be. I do know that in the midst of my trials, I was reading but just couldn’t leave comments. I felt awful “eating for free”, but just couldn’t find the words to say. (I’m probably not unique.)
But even comments don’t express how much the glass of water you’ve offered a parched tongue is actually worth. Like Annette above, only the one who is in the middle of the pain, understands just how blessed is the relief or comfort when it comes.
I can only say, you have been and are, a blessing. Authentically, really, truly.
Thank you so much for your kind words, and thank you for your prayers.
I felt all you wrote, one sentence at a time. When I got to the part where… “maybe I’ve thought this whole thing wrong…”, it was such a relief. I felt the pressure and the worry slip away from my mind… and heart. Thank you for such a meaningful ‘don’t-know-what-to-write’ post!
That’s the best “don’t-know-what-to-write-about” post I’ve ever read. I felt the anxiety and shame slip off of me as I continued reading beyond the “maybe I was thinking about this all wrong” line. Thank you for being so honest and real. Oh, and I love how you love your wife. 🙂
Please forgive the double reply, I didn’t think it posted after signing in…. delete one if you wish!
Sorrow and pain mixed with joy. I’m so glad you have the joy part. We can find bits of joy in our lives every day if we are open to them. Thank you for these words, Sam.
I’m in Loveland, Colorado. Where is your grandson?
I have family in Colorado Springs. I lived in that area for 20 years – until 2007, when I came to Cali.
So much of one’s ego is wrapped up in quests for achievement. So you accumulate 50 achievements in your life. And? What gives? Does that make you better than the person who only achieved one or two things? So you have higher status than another? Ultimately, that’s what it is about.
Legacies and being remembered is overrated, too. Same goes for consumerism and accumulation of material wealth. Way, way overrated.
Ultimately, everyone should judge themselves and gauge themselves according to their homecoming with the LORD. Will God say, “welcome, my good and faithful servant”?
I think the truest achievement for a person in life, aside from keeping the faith and all, is to be a good person. Help others, be trustworthy, live and upright life, defend the powerless, aid and protect the helpless, go against evil in every way possible. Shelter battered women on the run, donate to battered women’s shelters. Spend time counseling battered women. And by doing so, you’ll most likely also effect positive changes in the children’s lives of said battered women.
Speak out against evil. Stand against evil. Be there for others.
Most of these problems and considerations are overwhelmingly first-world problems. People fussing over achievements and legacies and accumulation of status items. People in the USA should be forced to travel to slums in developing countries. They should know true poverty. See the world around them. Do whatever they can, bit by bit, to lessen the inequality of this world.
I think it’s wonderful you write about your life and how you care about your wife and care for her. I think there’s like a 97 percent divorce rate for women who become disabled, be it a serious car accident, or a sudden life-altering, debilitating illness. One woman was featured on Oprah. She’d been camping with her husband and kids and the kids were in the camper and it started rolling and was headed off the side of a cliff and she ran in front of the rolling truck and camper and it ran her over, leaving her paralyzed and in a wheelchair, but the husband had an additional second to get the kids out of the camper before it went off the side. Her thanks? He divorced her shortly thereafter and found a wife 2.0 who wasn’t paralyzed and in a wheelchair. So, so many women are discarded by husbands because they wish to upgrade to a newer model who isn’t facing disability or any health issues. Many abusers drive their wives into disability via their abuse and then discard them.
I think life achievements and all the trappings of success, status, etc. are so overrated. There is so much need on this planet. People are in desperate need of having someone in their lives who is decent, trustworthy, non-predatory, and not an abuser. So, in being a good person, not beating your wife, remaining a faithful husband, you’re doing a lot of good in the world. Greater society might not value such, but those are the quality achievements.
Most of those who do achieve a lot in their lives were born into privilege, have others supporting them, and are obsessive about achievement, to a selfish degree. It’s about ego.
I, for one, want to be on my death bed recalling those who I was able to help, support, encourage, love, care for, and share the faith. I think struggling against the trappings of immoral society takes up a great deal. And I was driven into disability by an abuser and his allies. So my struggle is just making it through another day. However, someday it might be nice if I was able to help others.
“ Many abusers drive their wives into disability via their abuse and then discard them.” I am there as well. I feel for you. I appreciated your whole comment.
Beautifully written! We get so caught up in busyness. God just hit the pause button and we are learning to smell the roses of his grace. Thank you!
Just beautiful, Sam. I love it. You did well.
Its looking at the right things, isnt it. The truly tremendous tasks don’t usually bring us honour from the world. But the honour that does come is infinitely more valuable. I am looking to the day when I stand before him and hear his “well done”. Not earnt, but a pleasing gift to him.
Dear Mr. Powell,
Have you come across the diagnosis of TMS from Dr. Sarno for chronic pain and conditions like CRPS? If not, please dive into it! It will bring your wife relief. Basically, it explains how God designed our brains and how pain is a gift in a warning signal that forms over time from repetitive neural pathways. I pray this will bless you and your family.
I know that journey….it took a grandson with surgeries to identify Ehlers Danlos… his mother.. we nearly lost her…and now we know why! She’s the one who takes God seriously. All of my kids have it.. but her the more so, and her son’s too… but one the more so… and her hope this year is no surgeries. Her son says, “Mom teaches me how to live with this.” They don’t complain. When we knew her son was going to have hip surgery, she said, “Mom, how did you stand it!” Who said I stood it? I cried, prayed, splayed out on the floor, etc. I remembered when she said, “Mom I love you and I don’t want to leave you but if I’m with Jesus I won’t have anymore pain.” Splayed out on the floor… I surrendered her, finally. She is an awesome person. She says, “You don’t stop living because of pain.” She will be 52, married to an awesome Godly man, 27 years of marriage…they know how to face challenges with God. Thank God.
Ehlers Danlos… finally a name for it. All my kids have it, one daughter more so… nearly lost her more than once, misdiagnosed, or never knew…but when her son got diagnosed, we had a name and an explanation. Can’t say more..
Great post. Thank you ! God bless you.
Pastor Sam, You have been gifted with putting words to the happenings of the mind and soul. What a blessing it is for me to have you share that gift. Sometimes I know I’m struggling, but don’t quite have the thought fully formed…then you post something….one more thing and I say, “Yes, that is how it feels, and those are the words I needed today.”
I am so very thankful for you and to you. No pressure, but I find myself looking forward to your next post and enjoy wandering down the path of past related posts.
Thank you for your kind words!