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.