Thanks to some generous gifts from a few of our Catch citizens, we are in Wyoming this weekend to be with Chandler and hold an in-person evaluation of his progress (and ours).
It is a somewhat bruised, battered and humiliated author who writes to you this morning, given my commitment to granting two of Chandler’s wishes for this weekend — one being a workout at the local recreation center Friday night with Chandler serving as my personal trainer, followed by a snowmobile trip Saturday morning in the mountains 45 minutes outside of Laramie. Both of these activities had me thinking early on, “Okay, aren’t we ready to be done now?”
Chandler had me on every weightlifting machine in the building on Friday night, and he made sure I did 20 repetitions of each one, with him upping the weight, until I couldn’t make it to 20. Of course I had to be Macho Dad and keep asking for more, while inside I’m thinking, “Can’t we go to the sauna now?” The classic was this one machine where I’m supposed to pull some big contraption over my head, and Chandler set it where he thought I might make a reasonably easy start and I tried to pull but nothing happened. It might as well have been a two-ton boulder I was supposed to push uphill. It wasn’t going anywhere.
You would have been proud of me, though: I bench-pressed 20 times. Of course, it was just the bar with nothing on it. I didn’t want to hurt myself. Luckily Chandler was spotting me. We did finally make it to the sauna and the steam room so that I was a sore, wet noodle by the time I crawled into bed that night, only to rise about five hours later to head to the mountains and rent a couple snowmobiles for the morning. I can’t believe some guys do this for the whole day. As it was, I had to call it after two hours because my arms were so sore, I wasn’t sure I could keep the thing on the road long enough to get back to the lodge. I already tipped it over once and have a nice knot on my knee to speak for that.
This was the humiliating part, in that there were a bunch of macho guys buzzing around the mountains on and off the trails while I was doing my best to keep the thing upright in the middle of the road. At one point on a straightaway, I got up to 40 mph, which made me wonder why I was deciding to end my life this way.
Honestly, the point of this whole exercise was lost on me, but not on Chandler, who went zipping into the trees, only to reappear further up the road, crossing in front of me and disappearing again while I plodded along: a long journey in the same direction. It was a classic tortoise-and-hare scenario. I could think of a lot of easier, safer ways to drive that road. A four-wheel-drive Jeep was one.
Looking back on this experience, I can see a very common spiritual truth at work here, however. It’s the classic issue of adequacy. Do we have what it takes for life? The truth of the matter is, none of us do, we just act like we do, making it harder and harder on those who feel so unqualified, they can’t help but look stupid in front of everyone else. I was definitely not equipped to be out there operating heavy machinery with already sore arms from the night before, but I was there nonetheless. And isn’t that what life is like; none of us feel adequate for it — there are just some who can fake it better than others?
Which is where the Lord comes in. He should be “in” all the time; it’s just that it takes more impossible situations to draw the faith out of us. That’s why we must be courageous, in spite of our fears or inadequacies, to embrace those situations that humble us, and call for us to stretch beyond our capabilities. God is building character into our lives, and that character brings us hope, because we see what He is doing, why He is doing it, and what He is accomplishing in and through us.
We also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us. (Romans 5:3-5)
Chandler’s church in Laramie has communion every Sunday. The elements are laid out in the back of the room and upon invitation, everyone goes back and gets a wafer and a thimble of juice and returns to their seat. When Marti and I got back to our seats yesterday, Chandler, who had gone ahead of us, and two of his friends from the school/treatment center, were waiting for us because the two friends wanted to make a circle and pray for Chandler, Marti and me by name. Marti and I kept our mouths shut and received a beautiful, humbling gift we will not soon forget.
For a video of John telling his snowmobile story, click here.