Sometimes the way forward requires a leap of faith
I awoke early one morning. As I tried to go back to sleep, I began to think of my father. He died early, at age 72. I came to the stark realization that he only lived fifteen years more than my current age. If I were on the same biological trajectory, that is not much time left.
I do not dwell too much on my own demise. Through my training at West Point and my earlier life as a professional soldier, I had come to peace with that possibility, even if then I was certain of my own invincibility.
Now, I am confronted with my own mortality. How would it impact my family? I know there were many unanswered questions after my father’s passing. He was my anchor in life, the Rock of Gibraltar. But like all such geological formations we find fissures and blemishes that abate an otherwise impregnable structure.
I know that within me, there are many such imperfections. I learned in the Army’s Ranger School, that when pushed to the limit, I am not nearly as strong or noble as I had previously imagined myself. Over the past twenty years away from a profession that demands a hard exterior, those flaws have become more prevalent, or perhaps I am more cognizant of them.
My life’s journey is one of trying to deal with those failings. Naively, I once believed there were no regrets in my life. That is no longer true. I suppose that anyone who has lived beyond half a century comes to such a revelation. Too much time and too many actions have passed to believe that one has not done or said something they would like to take back.
I feel these events and their effect on the people they touched now begin to define me. For a strategic guy, one who has always looked at future goals to shape the way forward, this is deeply disturbing. While the past may be a good predictor of the future, nothing in life is certain. I don’t believe in predestination.
Herein lies the difficulty. If we truly have free will, then the consequences of our actions do matter. If every thing is measured in terms of impact on others and the cumulative effect of that is not always positive, how should we tread? A considered life demands analysis, but over analysis can lead to stagnation. All paths forward seem to have some negative components. I have lost that decisiveness that once was the hallmark of my time as a leader of combat troops.
Yet, I remain a rational person. I can evaluate the possibilities and for the most part have found a positive path. This has contributed to business success. Perhaps this is one reason I have been so critical of local public policy. They either don’t see the logical outcomes of their actions or they simply choose to ignore them. It is why I have fought so hard to add strategic thought and analysis to their actions. It matters and it can be better.
My pastor, Greg DePriest once said that “Faith is taking that which is not as though it already is.” However, in a rational world where past actions have consequences, it is difficult to have too much faith because we always seem to shape that future in unforeseen and sometimes negative ways.
That has become the main reason for the current discomfiture in my heart. I had not been able to find a way to accept the proposition that although the negative consequences of what I have done in the past will always remain, those actions must not define the future. At some point, you have to accept your failings and move ahead. I simply have not been able to find a way to do this.
Several weeks ago, our new associate pastor, Tony Bleckley gave a powerful sermon. He spoke of intrinsic faith, that which is inherently incorporated in your life and actions (my interpretation). As a rationalist, I have generally had a more secular faith; I live in an empirical Newtonian world governed by the rules of logic. I am distinctly uncomfortable with the probabilistic world of quantum physics.
In simple terms, I have found it difficult to make that leap of faith. But, Tony made it real when he spoke of the true meaning of this Christmas season. Why should one believe? Because it is the singular means to reconcile life. It is the only way to accept what we have done with all its negative consequences and not let it define the future. It does not erase what we have done and the real hurt it may have caused, but it does allow you to start afresh.
With so little time left, it is long past due to accept that there are things I simply cannot change and move forward with the understanding that life begins anew each day. The choices we make going forward stand on their own merit. The atonement for the past is in the hands of someone else.
And so in this Season, I hope all of you can find it in your own hearts to accept the gift that we have been given and begin tomorrow with the knowledge that it really is the first day of the rest of your life. Live it that way and be thankful. Merry Christmas.