Sunday, March 6, 2011

Fulfilling Requirements

"Over here! Pick Me! Tag Me in! Come to me. I want to do this with you." (Ezekiel 36:36-37 RSV)

I’m back! Not so much to blogging, but rather to life as I knew it near the end of 2010. The past few weeks have been crazy as I have been resettling myself in Charlotte. I have moved apartments, added a roommate, picked up an additional job, and spent an inordinate amount of time at Chic-Fil-A. I am a bit more ‘in place’ at this point as I try to orient the next several months here.

As most of the 4 people who glance at this know, I spent the end of November and all of December and January back in Chicago. Yes, currently, I am doing Southeast summers and Midwest winters; I am a moron. While back in Chicago I work in house for a company called Crown Graphics. ‘The Shop’ as it is effectively called wears many, many different hats. Most days it is a silkscreen and embroidery business. On others, it is a budding soccer agency business (check it out And still other days it operates as a research venue for new business ventures the likes of RedBox, Storage Wars, and Pawn Shops. Every day however, there is some form of joke or laughter that takes place; usually at someone else’s expense. It is inevitable. Those who are in or around ‘the shop’ joke that A&E should come in and do a reality show. I have no doubts people would watch it.

While in Charlotte, my role with Crown is different as I am not on site. I do more distance based sales, and am helping to build the Bridges agency. When I am in town though, I help with all of the day to day aspects of the print side. There are screens to be cleaned, shirts to be boxed and shipped, film to be made, and of course items to be screened.

Since screening is the majority of the business we do, it is guarded heavily. Though not a particularly difficult task, in theory, if you mess up it costs the business money. There is a certain art to it and while I am making it sound potentially more difficult than it is, there really isn’t a whole lot of margin for error. No new employee screens. It is a process in which over a period of time you are anointed an ability to take the steering wheel.

After lots of mess ups on sample shirts and ink order the task becomes fairly simple. It can be a one man job and doesn’t require a whole lot of thinking. On big shirt orders it can tend to get a bit tedious.

During one week I was screening a rather large order for a best friend of mine. (Check out his blog: Chip is in charge of the Freshman Experience at Cornerstone University in Grand Rapids. He has basically flipped the thing on it’s head in the past year and asked that we make some shirts for all of his freshmen.

The design on the front was a cool, albeit dizzying pattern that looked a little bit like something out of Dr. Mario. Want to disagree? I screened it over 500 times. I’m pretty confident I’m correct in my analysis.

On the back was a simple line; right below the neck on the upper back. In a skyish blue read the words: “Build a Life That Matters.”

I can’t imagine it takes much to see the ridiculous irony in this.

I sat there, listening to oldies, painting the phrase “Build a Life That Matters’ on over 500 T shirts. Put shirt on board, screen down, wipe the ink across, screen up, shirt on dryer. Repeat.

I screened in borderline agony as these t shirts screamed out to me, questioning, “Are you building a life that matters?”

It is a question that for those who know me, has more or less haunted me for a some time. Have you ever felt like this? We are told in the Scriptures that to whom much is given, much is required (Luke 12:48). I cannot speak for you, but I for one have been given much. I have won the parent lottery. I am educated, well traveled, well experienced, and fairly well versed. The ‘much given’ part is definitely in tact.

And in a quest for ‘required’ I have been in 4 cities in 4 years. I have coached, played, sold, moved, input, and handed out just to name a few. I have yet to find that I have filled this required mandate. I have yet to find exactly what it is that is being asked.

So often I just want the simple answer. I want someone, I want God to just tell me what ‘much required’ is. I want to just know. Tell me so I can go and do it. Tell me, so that it can be done; finished.

Others’ grass seems so freaking green and it drives me crazy.

And yet in the midst of this tension, we are offered comfort.

My favorite analogy is that contrasting a hospital room and a rain storm. In the hospital room everything is so neat. Everything is clean. All of the sheets are folded perfectly. The word that gets thrown around in hospitals is sterile. Everything is sterile. It has to be. With all of the sickness and disease in a hospital you don’t want to risk the spread to other rooms and subsequently patients.

On the contrary, this morning as I went out to church I sprinted to my car through pouring rain. I tried to take a short cut through the grass and landed in a massive puddle. As I looked around the flower and tree beds, they were all overflowing with mud and mulch. It was disgusting. It was gross, and dirty, and anything but sterile. But this mess will result in beauty in the coming weeks. Spring will arrive and buds will be in blossom. Grass will be green and animals will be all over the place. The reality that any gardener will tell you is that growth happens in the mess.

Our lives mirror the exact same reality.

Our lives are shaped in process; in the mess. See, I had read the back of those shirts all wrong. My brain actually read, HAVE a life that matters (1). The beauty of what was actually written was in the opening word: BUILD.

Building is messy. There are wood shavings, marks on the floor, mistakes, trash to be taken out. A house isn’t just a take out of the box and add water product. Our lives are no different. Even Jesus grew (Luke 2:52). He was subject to the same mess.

And I could be wrong, but I believe we serve a God who loves to see his children in process. He struggles when we make wrong turns, he cringes when our own actions lead to pain, and he is ecstatic to see our successes and our growth. He loves to partner with us in figuring out ‘required.’

I have to believe that if God were a T Shirt guy, he might in fact have one that reads, “Building Lives That Matter.”

(1) Even that understanding is ironic and misplaced. Having a life that matters is already established as a follower of Christ.

1 comment:

Skells said...

Wow, you just described my life as well... its hard to see past the haze and all the craziness that everyday life brings to the clarity of what is really going on. It can be so frustrating but then you get a glimpse of what is really going on past all the rain and mud and sludge and it can be beautiful. love ya man