The long game.

She says something smells, and it must be me. I sniff at my clothes and she laughs saying, “Did you ever think you’d end up this way back when you were cool?”

She gives me way too much credit.

But no. I didn’t think I’d end up like this. There’s a multitude of good in it. Sometimes, something that passes as news catches my eye when I run at the gym, and I think on how grateful I am. How grateful I should be. But there’s always that bitter lining of reality that’s stitched in the seams. It’s my own foul attitude toward the things that define me whether I should be grateful for them or not.

I suppose that speaks more to who I used to be. A creator of lies I thought I’d one day live. If somebody irked me, no matter. They’d one day witness me winning the Pulitzer Prize and that would surely put them in their place. Why I imagined a nine-year-old would ever be intimidated by a fancy writing award is beyond me. I guess I thought I’d play the long game.

I am not a Pulitzer Prize winner. I did win a gold fish at a carnival once that lived for three years, so I suppose all is not lost. But I’m finding winning isn’t in the bigger things but in the small building blocks of an every day life. One foot in front of the other. One seed planted in a row. Sprinkle it with water, watch it grow.

She shoves her laundry into the open mouth of the washer, and I sniff at myself my again. This time, a little less obviously.

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You only live forever.

You don’t only live once, you live a lifetime times seventy-seven and will walk eternal. And the dark quiet void of the universe isn’t talking to you, but God is certainly beating His fist against your breastbone. And you can “self-care” all you want, putting your oxygen mask on first, but a hot bath and a candle can never replace the Holy Spirit.

And I can be absorbed within the realms of American culture, but here’s the thing: I won’t.

I’ve always been an odd duck. I remember one time staging a slight coup where I made my two best friends sit with me at another table while I looked Stacey McStevens hard in the eye. I was tired of being on the fringe of the popular group. I was tired with the idea of popular. I wanted to slice through the cord that still tethered me to the divisive ways of middle school social constructs.

I wanted out. And God has always known that about me.

Jesus culture is an upside down place, a kingdom where up is down and down is up. You humble yourself to be elevated. You bend a knee to save a heart. It is not “me first,” but you before me always, and it is so counter to American culture, it makes my soul sing.

I am tired of this place on so many levels. And the idea of swallowing a new wayward, misleading catchphrase of the week like popping a pill is akin to digging out a bad tooth with a spoon.

I’m good, you guys.

What’s more heartbreaking is seeing people I love and respect fall prey to the outside world. But there’s always something about their faces. Their eyes that are looking out at me like a scared child planting their face against a window. That look, the “I’m okay with this because they tell me I should be okay with this.”

But friend, you don’t have to be okay with this.

Stand up, stare hard, and go sit where God wants you.

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