The threshold has been crossed. I’m flippin 30 years old… me, the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles’ cartoon, Dunn Bros Coffee, and U2’s “With or Without You.” Kind of mind boggling actually and it’s amazing how quickly time flies. Last night I was talking to my dad and we were reminiscing about years gone by and how things have changed. And actually a lot has changed but so much has stayed the same. For a long as I can remember, I’ve asked myself on each birthday, “I wonder what Dad was like at this age, what was going through his mind.” At 30, he had a career in the Army, a wife, and a gaggle of children. I was 8 years old when he crossed this mark. I remember thinking he was the coolest, he had everything together, and that’s what I wanted and I knew I would be that.
Fast forward 22 years and things are slightly different. I signed up to help lead the ecclesia militans, my bride is the Church, and spiritually I’ve got more children than I know what to do with… As to feeling like I’ve got it mostly worked out the way I thought my dad had at 30, well… Over the course of this last month I’ve come to quickly realize that that is not the case, haha. Truth be told, I’ve been somewhat out of sorts about it. I thought I would be different at 30 than I am, that somehow I would be more mature, have more of “my poop in a group,” as they say. There’s been this dichotomy in my head, or at least perceived. I’ll let you into the madness that has been my mind the last month… if you dare to enter.
30 has held for me the illusion that this is officially adulthood, and once there, there is a degree of maturity, of sophistication, of vision, a settledness, if you will… Those who have already passed this age are probably laughing… While I knew this to not be true intellectually, it was hard to rectify with my life experiences. Check it: I grew up and have lived in different countries and cultures, I have traveled the world over, studied languages, art, philosophy, science, music, and theology. I have witnessed miracles and stared demons (literally) in the face. I have many times fallen in love and learned the hard way what real love meant. I’ve known what it means to truly hate and to learn to forgive. I have held friends and looked in their eyes as they died and I have faced my own death. I’ve been shot at, nearly stabbed, and I’ve swung back. I have held ancient documents and read books containing knowledge that less than 1% of the entirety of humanity ever will. And with that stat, I’ve chosen a vocation that, get this, less than .05% of my fellow human beings know anything about. As a priest, I have carried out my role and stared into the darkest and blackest parts of the human heart and I have borne witness to the blinding goodness that is there as well. I have prepped and blessed marriages and dealt with the fallout of failed ones. I’ve prayed over the sick and anointed the dying on operating tables. I have buried children and walked the old to the gates of eternity. I have cared for souls. My hands have held the only Son of God…
Experiences that should, one would think, produce a certain personality. But, that’s one side, the “Father” side. Then there is “Jon.” Jon is often times a silly fool. My ideal morning is waking up, pounding Cap’n Crunch and watching cartoons. When I drive my truck, the music is either off or at max and generally some form of 80’s rock to which, if you pass by and it looks like I’m screaming I am (I don’t simply “listen” to music). Furthermore, I often pretend my truck on the interstate is the Starship Enterprise (that stays between us though 😉) If I didn’t have to for appearance sake, I’d never get a haircut. If I can get away with it, I’ll lay on the roof forever staring at the stars on a clear night or watching clouds during the day and daydream. I laugh at crass jokes and find the most real people are generally at the pub. Much of the time, I’m concocting some absurd prank or joke that I can secretly set up and watch it play out. I shall keep this list prudently smaller than the previous for obvious reasons… In short, Jon is very childish.
So over the last month I have seen these two sides at war facing the prospect of 30. But perhaps this is the wisdom that comes with age or maybe I’m just a slow learner: I am who I am and 30 don’t change nothin. Aside from striving to conquer sin and shooting for holiness, “Jon” does not need to give way to some ridiculous illusion of what a 30 year old should be, such is my manifesto and my peace. As I enter into this 30th year, I’ve come to realize that these two aspects of who I am actually compliment each other. I can lecture on the finer points of biblical hermeneutics, political theology, or medical ethics over a nice scotch and the very next day almost destroy my truck going too fast on some motorized vehicle trail in the Hills screaming, “Carry on My Wayward Son.” It has enabled me to be a priest to more than either side alone could minister to. The way that God has guided my life has allowed me to be me, and that’s a beautiful thing. While a lesson that may seem obvious to many, it’s one that, as I mark an age where it officially means I’m getting older, I needed to relearn that older doesn’t mean I have to be somebody else.
In fact, there’s an image that I’ve used in many of my lessons in the last couple of months since my parish transition which has played a significant role in my own ponderings. Michelangelo’s painting, The Creation of Adam, is one that is not only aesthetically brilliant, but it’s depth theologically and anthropologically profound. As you can see, God the Father is surrounded by a cloak and within the cloak are numerous beings. If you look closely, you’ll notice that the cloak forms the shape of a brain. Look more closely, and, what are often mistaken for angels, are actually humans. This incredible scene communicates the stunning reality that before Adam was made, before the sun began to burn and the moon circle the earth, before the ground became firm and the oceans gathered themselves, before anything came to be God was thinking about you… me… He was thinking about us individually in all of our weirdness, all of our peculiarities and quirks, all of our goodness. And He loved that thought so much, it ceased to be a thought and He made us. He shared us.
Therefore (conclusion indicator), God knew what He was doing when He took the crazy thought of me and made it real. He did the same for you. Who are we to say we need to become something else? Yeah, there are things that we need to grow out of and change, but who you are… God loves that. So do that, be that. So I’m an odd mixture of Chesterton’s Fr. Brown and Kid Rock. After a month of mental wrestling and existential angst, that’s what I’m gonna do and keep doing that for the next 30. *mic drop*