Remember the chair in my last post that had been covered with red tractor paint? Here it is again:
Just as it took a lot of work to remove the paint to discover the beautiful grain underneath, so it often takes us a lot of work to get down to our true characters that have been covered over with the paint of social conventions, family expectations, and professional roles.
This, however, is the work many people undertake in the second half of life.
But how do you do that? This is the first of four blogs on this subject, because there are at least three ways to find the grain – the character of a chair that has been painted over. Here is one of the most obvious:
Remember who you were before you were painted.
When he was a kid, my father always wanted to be a physician, but he could see no path to medical school. He took over his father’s dairy farm and later worked for the local electric utility. Away from the farm and living in town, he joined the volunteer fire department. He took their Emergency Medical Technician training and eventually became an instructor. It was a long ambulance ride from my rural hometown to the nearest hospital. For many years, my Dad rode those ambulances and kept people from bleeding to death or dying from heart attacks. He even delivered babies! He loved it. He was good at it. It was what he felt he was meant to do. He found the grain of his life by regaining his dream.
What were your dreams when you were young?
Some people are lucky enough to follow them. A very accomplished church organist said that when he was a young boy, his aunt took him to an organ concert. She was afraid that he would be bored, but instead, he said, “I was transfixed.” He found his dream and followed it.
Others, like my Dad, never had the opportunity, or missed the opportunity because of the need to raise a family, satisfy someone else’s expectations, or they just chose the “sensible” path.
Can you go back to who you were when you were 24 or 14 or even 4 and remember your dreams back then? Who did you want to be when you grew up?
It’s a scary question – especially late in life. We may have buried the answer like a stillborn child that we have tried to forget because we can’t stand the heartache. It may involve unlearning what we think we are and are meant to be.
As a young man, Moses killed an overseer who was beating a Hebrew slave. Perhaps even then he was dreaming of becoming a liberator. Instead he became a fugitive and a shepherd. According to tradition, he was 80 when he talked to a burning bush, and became a very different kind of liberator.
Moses’ dialogue with that Burning Bush in Exodus 3 can be a model for reclaiming an old dream.
- It appears that Moses had to take time out from his routine – to “turn aside” – in order for God to speak to him (Exodus 3:3-4). Can you interrupt your routine long enough to listen to what God may be saying through your dream?
- The first thing God does after introducing Himself to Moses is show Moses what his people need. (Exodus 3:7-9).
- The next thing God does is give Moses a vision for what he can do to solve this problem (Exodus 3:10).
- Moses responds by doubting that he is suited to this task. “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh?” (Exodus 3:11). He will have to unlearn what he thinks of himself and his limitations (Exodus 4:1-17)
- Note that every time that Moses brings up an objection, God doesn’t magically make it go away, but rather finds a way around it.
Do you have any tales you can tell about finding a path back to your original dreams – your character – the grain of your life that got painted over by necessity or fear?
- What or who did you want to be when you grew up?
- How have you had to unlearn what you thought of yourself and your possibilities
- How have you gotten around obstacles?
The next post will be about finding the grain beneath the paint.