The other night I went to bed before 10 pm … nearly an unprecedented event in my experience … I usually am much more of a night-owl unless I am sick. Even so, morning came much too quickly, and I’m feeling drowsy as I ride the train northward.
I’ve been watching Rudy lately … a movie about a kid who dreams of playing football for Notre Dame, and eventually (through sheer stubborn perseverance) fulfills that dream. While I am not much of a sports guy, I have to admire the diligence and effort this character puts into making his dream a reality. As with many of these sports movies, the musical score is very good, tugging at my emotions and pulling me in to the fantasy that playing for Notre Dame is somehow a noble objective in and of itself, worth the effort and passion that is poured into it by this young man.
At one point in the movie, Rudy is discouraged and about to quit because of an unfortunate change in coaches and a promise made to him by the old coach that seems unlikely to be fulfilled. One of his mentors points out that by playing on the team and attending Notre Dame, Rudy has already accomplished something worth doing, and that he should not quit. “You’re five feet nothin’, a hundred and nothin’, and you’ve got hardly a speck of athletic ability … and you hung in with the best college football team in the land for two years! And you’re also gonna walk out of here with a degree from the University of Notre Dame. ” Somehow, Rudy finds this encouraging and goes back to practice.
It makes me think about my own situation in life and the many gifts and opportunities that have been lavished on me. Watching Rudy struggle through his classes at Holy Cross (before he manages a transfer to Notre Dame) reminds me of my own college career and the intelligence that God has given me. While I may be currently working in a job that does not particularly challenge me intellectually, I work among some of the smartest people I have ever known. Perhaps the challenge for me here is to learn everything I can, without being distracted or discouraged by the mundanity of my job. While Rudy is mostly a fictional character, the movie was based (however loosely) on a real-life story … it makes me think about my own dreams and what I need to do to make them happen.
So, what are my dreams? I’ve always wanted to be a Dad and a husband … check for Dad, check for husband. Except it turns out these goals are lifelong marathons, not sprints, so I guess I’m living the dream. One career or vocation I’ve long wanted to pursue is to be a missionary … yet there is a sense of not being called to that yet (or is that just fear?) in my heart.
I’ve never expected to be particularly successful in business, and I don’t think I have enough ability to compromise to be a politician. I’ve never felt called to be a pastor or any full-time ministry that would require a pastoral mindset (I just don’t seem to have that kind of patience). I guess I always wanted to be the lead developer on a team. I certainly enjoyed the work I did at Ford — I really had fun finding the best way to accomplish things and laying down a pattern for the other developers.
When I was in college, Kathy and I attended the Urbana Missions Conference through InterVarsity Christian Fellowship. At that point I had not yet set foot on the career path I’ve chosen (or fallen into), and I remember being very much attracted to a computer job in Ghana or the Ivory Coast with one of the missions agencies. These past 15 years I have often remembered that dream and wondered what my life would have been like if I had pursued that opportunity.
Strangely, one of the things that has always held me back was something that was said at that same conference. One of the speakers was trying to challenge the students at the conference to think seriously about having a missions mindset, and he said something like this: “If you’re not being a missionary on your own campuses, where you already speak the language and are familiar with the culture, how are you going to be a missionary in a foreign culture where you don’t speak the language?” I recall feeling very challenged by that statement and I returned to my campus with that in mind, but as I have aged, I haven’t become much bolder in my witness. I still struggle to speak openly about the Lord in the workplace or with strangers I meet … a sense of unworthiness continues to hold me back from even investigating mission opportunities.
It has also been rather scary to watch our friends who are in language school as they prepare to serve as missionaries in Thailand with New Tribes Missions. As they move from school to school, they pack their entire household into a tiny trailer … just the thought of limiting our stuff at that level is daunting.
While we’ve never been wealthy by American standards, I have generally enjoyed a decent flow of income (except for a recent period of unemployment). What would it be like to be on the other end of the financial spectrum, to work in a field where wealth is not the measuring stick? I can’t imagine that I would be very good at raising support … maybe I could show slides of malnourished computer programs in Kenya and network routers starved of RAM in Mozambique?
I don’t think that this desire to be a missionary is something that Kathy shares, and I’m reasonably sure that God does not generally call a married person to ministry like this apart from their spouse. So perhaps this is merely a mid-life crisis brought on by lack of achievement and a less-than-exhilarating job? I’m at the right age for such a crisis, although calling this a ‘crisis’ seems a bit dramatic. I suppose I could rush out and purchase a sports car. Truth be told, if I get a decent raise, I’m thinking about buying a VW beetle to replace my rapidly-disintegrating bronze Escort.
I can picture it now … I bring it home and park it in the driveway, gleaming in the sun … the kids rush out, shouting, “Daddy bought a Herbie!” I smile proudly until they start jumping on the front of the car, when my smiles turn to panic: “Respect the perimeter … respect the perimeter around the Herbie!” (See Cheaper by the Dozen — the latest remake.)
Maybe I should just go play football for Notre Dame.