A Cool Dude Looks Back

This week we celebrated our son Miles' 14th birthday. He's an eighth grader at Piner Middle School. Miles plays the trombone like I did when I was his age. He is a couple of ranks shy of becoming an Eagle Scout-- I never made it beyond Cub Scout. And he is obsessed with all things Harry Potter the way I was with Star Wars. His birthday inspired me to jump in the time machine and think about my life when I was an eighth grader on the way to high school.

So I pulled out my 1985 Bay City Junior High yearbook. I read the notes left there thirty-four years ago by friends, many of whom I remember, some of whom I keep in touch with via Facebook or the occasional visit. Back then, everyone called me Frankie-- it's even my official name under my picture. Almost all of the notes left by friends said the same thing, just worded differently:

Hey Frankie, you're a pretty cool dude.
Hey Frankie, stay cool and you'll do well.
Hey Frankie, you're a pretty cool guy with a great future. 
And so on. And no, you may not call me Frankie! So many of those comments were focused on the future. I guess the change from 8th to 9th grade makes us reflective.

Well, here I am, the now 48 year old Pastor Frank from the future (and no, no one saw that coming in 1985!). In my own mind, I did stay cool and I had a great future. I went places I never expected to go in every sense of the phrase-- including living in England twenty years ago and Sherman, Texas today.

I tend to read several books at once and rarely finish any of them. One of my current quests is The Screwtape Letters by CS Lewis. The other day I read these lines, which speak to the importance of the Present, rather than the past or the future: "[The] ideal is a [person] who, having worked all day for the good of posterity (if that is his vocation), washes his mind of the whole subject, commits the issue to Heaven, and returns at once to the patience or gratitude demanded by the moment that is passing over him" (page 77). We will be in a good state of mind if "[We] are aware that horrors may be in store for [us] and [are] praying for the virtues, wherewith to meet them, and meanwhile concerning [ourselves] with the Present because there, and there alone, all duty, grace, all knowledge, and all pleasure dwell..." (p. 78-79). Put another way, Jesus said:
So do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring worries of its own. Today’s trouble is enough for today (Matthew 6:34).

The future is tempting because it is unknown; the past is tempting because it is remembered (most of the time incorrectly if we are honest) and familiar. But God wants us to be present in the Present.

So if I could say one thing to my now 14 year old son, it would be to focus on your Present. Play your horn with gusto, earn every merit badge and rank with diligence, dream you are at Hogwarts if Grayson County becomes too predictable sometimes. Grow into the person God is shaping you to be, and do so with "the patience and or gratitude demanded by the moment."
Not that I have already obtained this or have already reached the goal; but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. Beloved, I do not consider that I have made it my own; but this one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on towards the goal for the prize of the heavenly call of God in Christ Jesus (Philippians 3:12-14).

Miles, you are a pretty cool guy with a great future. Your mother and I are so very proud of you. May God continue to bless you as you bless the lives of others.