My very good college friend (let’s call him Mike), came up to Maine to visit this winter. Normally, visitors want to see and experience as much as possible, but this visit was different. Since it was in the winter, the tourists had long since gone home to their busy city lives and a sleepy blanket of snow covers pretty much everything, tucking in the locals who have built lives here over the years and generations. In may ways, you can’t truly experience Maine unless you’ve experienced a Maine winter. Seeing the sun glisten through the ice and freshly fallen snow as you hike out to the ocean’s deserted beach is magical.
In our own ways, Mike and I are both determined and driven. We’ve both accomplished and experienced a lot and seemed to have arrived simultaneously at a point of taking stock and reflection.
My move to Maine transpired very quickly and seemed random since I wasn’t doing anything related to my previous experience in accounting, websites, or marketing. But it wasn’t really random if you stop looking at life as a linear event and more as a current that moves below the surface. Several years ago, a counselor asked me a question that I couldn’t un-hear and I shared it with Mike, because it was the most direct way explanation.
Reluctantly, I was visiting this counselor, because who wants to go see a counselor? However, I was profoundly unhappy with the very achievements I thought I once wanted. I wasn’t quite conscious of the upcoming choice I had to make, but I had a very stark choice to make.
Often, during my chit chat with my counselor, while I was avoiding the very reason I was paying him for his time, I happened on the subject, of all things, of how much I loved Costco, because their pizza is delicious and their gelato is pretty solid for the price. The counselor asked me why, if I liked Costco so much, I didn’t just take a job there until I figured things out regarding what I was more passionate about. He then followed this up with a brilliant question that forced me to confront a blatant contradiction in my spirit.
Counselor: Let me ask you a question. If you went to Costco and ended up meeting the assistant bakery manager, a guy who had a wife and children that loved him, who was happy at his job, who had interests outside of work, and great friends, would you think he was a loser?
Me: No, of course I wouldn’t think he was a loser. Good for him.
Counselor: If you were that baker, would you think you were a loser?
I couldn’t un-hear that question and it forever made me face the crumbling foundation on which I had built my identity.
There is no way I would be a baker. I went to college after all.
With a single question, that counselor earned his fee many times over. In high school, we took tests to see what type of careers we might want to pursue as an adult. Something deep in my heart desperately wanted to have a career of money and status. I thought, “Dear God, please let me be cut out for something decent.” I remember garbage man was one of my options, and I sat there thinking, “are you freaking kidding me with this? I am screwed.” In my spirit, I recoiled at being a nobody. Where this odd mixture of fear and pride came from, I don’t know.
They say pride is like carbon monoxide in that you don’t know your suffocating. I am certain that our spirits aren’t meant to whither and die on the vine, choked off by pride. Instead, we must must allow our pride to be stripped from us. This is a bit tricky, because it feels like you’re going to die, but you aren’t. You aren’t your pride. You’re something much more precious. You’re a soul dealing with the challenge of growing into the person you were intended to be.
It’s not a violent act, but it is a painful and terrifying separation. It’s also not something we can do alone. For how can we separate from something we didn’t even know was suffocating us to begin with? How do we know we totally released something so that it doesn’t grow back? Sometimes it takes a bit of a miracle, but life is full of them if you’re looking.
My conversation with Mike was a beautiful thing. It takes life long friendships to discuss such things honestly. We talked a long time about how he felt he wanted to dial things back work wise and invest more in his family. He talked about authoring a better story when it came to his wife and children.
I think it’s hard to write a great story when our minds seem to do such a great job at presenting us with pre-written chapters that have to be just so. However, the dogmas in our minds can be cast aside. A great story involves transformation of the heart, a hero’s journey, not a net worth figure or a Pinterest board of the house you want some day.
Our minds constantly present us stories that look good from the outside, but it’s the inside that matters, and that’s a sacred space only you grant access to.
I saw how my friend’s eyes lit up when he talked about changing his story from a dad that worked all the time to a dad who loved his children so much he would dial back to have time to take them on great adventures and teach them things. Now that’s a great story, one of true sacrifice and courage. I knew he knew what the answer was and I knew he had made the decision to write a great story for himself and his family.
Remember this, because it is true: for where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.
Don’t necessarily think of heaven as this future storehouse of wealth, like your treasure is going into a divine savings account accruing angelic interest for when you croak. It’s right here on earth. It’s all around if the eyes of your heart are ready to see it.