The smartest person I know – a true story

1 09 2010

He’s probably the smartest person I know.  For that matter he’s probably the smartest person you know.  My friend Gary (I have changed his name) is one of my closest friends.  He once shared with me his stated mission in life, as a teen, was to be the smartest person anyone had ever met.  Gary succeeded.  He teaches for a living and actually learned Greek (Latin) and Hebrew to understand the context of the historical writings he was teaching  in order to have a better handle on the historical significance of what had been written thousands of years ago.  I have a hard time with Dr. Seuss at bed time with my kids.  Hebrew?  No way.  So it should be no surprise Gary’s made a huge impact on my life in so many ways.  The least of which is a seed knowledge he planted in me 9 years ago which I have been trying to harvest for almost as long.  The beauty of his brilliance is in the truth of what he said.  Fittingly, the beauty of my stupidity is it only took 9 years to figure out what he was talking about. 

When I asked Gary how he knew he wanted to teach and what steps he took to get there he shared this with me.  Gary said, “Sean – when you get to the place in your life when you can no longer look in the mirror because you are not doing the one thing you know in your soul you were made to do, you will know it is time to do whatever you have to in order to live out your calling.”  This statement changed my life.  Not at first.  At first I thought, “I am there now!”  At least I thought I was.  In fact there have been countless times I have thought I was there…Gary’s statement ringing in my head… longing to be fulfilled in my work.  What took me 9 years to realize is actually what the absolute gut wrenching process of getting to the point where you cannot look in the mirror is.  You see for me, I never have liked what I see in the mirror.  Looking in the mirror has always been wretched.  Maybe you’re like me – you may not tell anyone how you really feel about yourself – but the reason you spend all that time in front of the mirror is to try to convince yourself you’re not as bad as you think.  Maybe it’s just me.  What I never realized was Gary’s comment was less about the mirror and more about the soul.  It was nothing new to me to not like what was in the mirror, as I say I have been dealing with that my entire life.  But actually listening to the whispers of my soul?  Totally new.  Being the kind of person who tends to speak first and listens much later I have not often practiced purposeful listening.  Especially to myself.  However over the last 9 years God has been working in me – changing me from the inside – allowing growth in the areas of greatest need.  9 years after Gary’s life altering wisdom I heard my soul.  It whispered to me.  I finally came to terms with what my calling was and I no longer would let fear, self loathing, and the loud voice I have always listened to tell me I couldn’t do it.  It was finally clear – I could no longer live without living out my calling.  Whatever it takes to see that happen is what it will take.  As the famed radio announcer Dave Ramsey says, “To live like no one else in order to live like no one else.”  After 9 years Gary’s words are so clear.  I get it.  And I also have come to terms with why so many times before I thought I was at that place in my life but in fact was so far from it.  It’s not about the mirror – it’s about the soul.

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WTF? (where’s the friendship)?

7 04 2010

Friends – can’t live with them, can’t live without them.  There are so many different variations of friends.  Long time friends, new friends, long distance friends, next door neighbour friends, arms length friends, friends of friends, family that are friends, friends that are like family, friends with benefits – lots of different kinds of friends.  I would hazard to suggest we probably have just as many different experiences with friendships as there are different definitions of friendships.  I certainly have.  We all have right?  We can all name a time where we have been lifted up by a friend, supported in a way or at a time where the palpable friendship was so moving – it was burned into our memory of what “real” friendship is like.  Conversely we have all had the opposite experience haven’t we?  A situation where we have been so let down by a friend the let down caused disillusionment for friendships as a whole?  More than that, the definition of friend is changing too isn’t it?  I have an old friend with whom I am not really close with anymore who has more than 3000 Facebook friends in his mission to have the most Facebook friends on the net.  Heck, Tila Tequila became (in)famous because she had the most MySpace friends in the world.  For my money, I like the few and fierce approach.  A few very close and fiercely active friendships.  The types where you may not see one another all of the time but when you do you walk away feeling so good – regardless of the conversation.  Could be a surface thing, could be deep and challenging – but always good.

Yesterday was great day.  On the heels of a friendship disappointment, I travelled back to my hometown for the day and got to see 4 good friends.  They are all different friendships with differing levels of time and experiences but all are good friendships.  The first has become a friend through a business relationship but when we get together we laugh and laugh.  That’s not something which comes easily to me so to have a friend like this is so cool.  It’s never super deep but it’s good that way.  The next friend I saw is one of my medical practitioners (he was a friend first).  He and his wife and my wife and I are all close individually and together.  We have great conversations.  Deep and shallow.  We have such an understanding.  We share common loves and dislikes, young children, spiritual understandings, just so much.  We don’t see each other every week but when we do see one another it’s great.  I was at my best man’s house next.  He wasn’t there but his wife and kids were.  I love this family so much.  I’ve actually been friends with them longer than any other active and engaged friendship I have.   They are an example to me of how to grow but not change.  How to be who you are happily and yet grow more deeply into who you were made to be.  Even the 20 minutes I was there was so awesome.   Finally we stopped for supper at a relatively newer friend’s home.  We always love being with them.  They are generous, open, warm, inviting, understanding, caring, and genuine.  We have told them pretty much everything there is to know about us and they don’t flinch.  They do the same with us.  The wives get together and are close and us husbands get together and talk too.  He and I talk more on the Blackberry’s but it’s our communication and it works for us.  What is so cool to me is when friendship truly works.  My hope is my family can be even half the friends these families/friends have been to us.

We’ve all had friendships where we’ve been let down.  I think it’s a fact of life.  Friendships suck sometimes.  Jody Watley sang, “friends will let you down/friends won’t be around/when you need them the most – where are your friends?” and she was right.  However, coming home from my hometown yesterday I was reminded of the best part of friendships.  Good friendships, real friendships are the flavor of life.  A light in the darkness of our lives.  Yesterday I was encouraged to be the friend I want to have by the friendships I have been blessed to be a part of.