You may have noticed that there is no longer a tree-and-starry-skies motif going on around here. Instead, there is a brightly colored amalgamation of Precocious characters, ponies, puppies, and my friend Bryce’s face. Allow me to explain via screenshot:
Tag Archives: change
This journal entry is dedicated to my little brother, Jonathan Newton. Thanks for the best sixteen years of my life so far, Jon.
We sat on the rough wooden porch beside each other, staring into the dim yellow twilight of the lampposts scattered along the asphalt pathway to the right. We stayed that way for a long time, conversing in our own unique dialect of silence, until at last Jonathan spoke. “I’m sorry.” We still weren’t looking at each other, but I knew the expression on his face well. His bright brown eyes were set hard against his emotions, but the tears glimmering just in the background revealed that his defenses were already weakening. “I’m sorry for being such a jerk and everything,” he continued evenly. “I shouldn’t have ignored you back there.”
I nodded slowly, “It’s alright. I understand.” More silence. My mind went back to the cabin behind us just five minutes before. I saw myself standing in the center of the room, words coming out of my mouth like hornets from a shaken nest, frustrated and venomous. Jonathan didn’t know, he was on the other side of the wall in Blue Jay 1, but I know if he had heard he never would have appeared in the doorway and asked me to come out and talk. “I’m getting so sick of this. Why does he always have to act this way?” All of my friends knew what I was really saying: “Why couldn’t he be a better brother?” Sitting there on the porch of Blue Jay, though, my own question turned on me like a righteous Benedict Arnold. My father’s words rang in my head, quietly accusing. “How is your brother? Make sure he’s doing alright, make sure he’s not lonely.” I’d left him hurting on his bed to be a next-door Judas, betraying his trust to indulge my own emotions. Looking back over the summer, I saw all of the days that he walked without purpose, his face dark and hard, and I knew I’d failed. How many times had I asked him if he needed to talk? How often had I gone out of my way to spend time with him? Why couldn’t I be a better brother?
I knew that I had no choice, I had to tell him, but I was afraid. If he knew what I’d said about him, that I’d put him down in front of my friends just for being human, would he be able to forgive me? I turned my head just half a degree, glanced at his face, opened my mouth. “I’m sorry, too,” I managed to whisper. Then, gaining strength, “I’m sorry I haven’t been there for you. I was just telling the guys in Blue Jay 2 about how frustrated I was with you for ignoring me, but the whole time I’ve been ignoring you, and I’m sorry.”
The silence returned, this time heavier and packed with intensity. Then I felt the slightest pressure as his arm moved up and rested across my shoulder, and warm reconciliation flowed from his body to mine. “It’s just so hard,” Jonathan sighed as I returned his embrace. “Knowing that you’re going to college, that this is our last summer together.” He paused. “I don’t regret any of it, you know.”
A jolt went out from my head to my heart and back. I turned to look him in the eyes for the first time that night, and I found them full of gentle redemption. I stared for a moment, transfixed, then I found my voice in the midst of my awe. “Any of what?”
“Of anything,” came his answer, quick and certain. “Of this week, of this summer, of us.”
“None of it?”
“None of it.”
His arm tightened around me, releasing me from bonds only he could break. We cried together on the porch of Blue Jay, cried for what we were about to lose and for all we’d just gained. The tears of hurt that we had held back minutes before transformed into tears of joy even as they fell, soaking into the rough cement steps below us and staining them with spots of shadow.
At last my tears retreated, leaving behind an emotional residue one step from numbness yet bursting with feeling, and I released my little brother. “Thank you,” I whispered.
Jonathan smiled, a divided smile born of sixteen years of brotherhood soon to be memories. “It’s going to be so weird,” he mused. “Who will I talk to when I’m supposed to be sleeping at night?” We laughed then, together, and I knew that nothing had changed between us, but at the same time everything was different. That summer was the end of our childhood, of our growing up together.
Sometimes the greatest lessons we learn in life come not during experiences but after. Last week I committed myself to a media fast and, while I greatly enjoyed the experience, I am really learning my lessons now, in the aftermath. It’s not the three step “hear advice, apply advice, succeed” type of learning, either; it’s the far less preferable, “hear advice, nod your head, go back to trying to defuse the bomb with a paper clip and a sharpie, blow up half of Chicago and spend two years in clinical rehab” type of learning. Fortunately for me (and half of Chicago), I’m not working with bombs here, but that doesn’t mean that I can take the matter of media addiction as a joke. I’ve seen what life is like without media, I know how much life I waste everyday entertaining myself, but I just jumped right back into it when the fast ended because I’m used to it, because it’s a habit.
It reminds me of sin, and even though I’d rather try to defuse a bomb than admit it, it probably is. God created me with good works prepared in advance for me to do. He expected great things out of me before there even was a me, and better yet he committed himself completely to helping me accomplish those good works. What kind of man am I if I take control of this life He’s given me and use it for myself, if I refuse to take part in the unimaginably great things He has for me? I’m a fool, and I know it. Thankfully, God knew that since before I existed, too, and He still chose to call me. He knew the cost and He believed it was worth it; now it’s up to me to decide if trusting Him is worth the price He’s asking from me.
How far will I have to go? I’m not sure. I don’t believe that God wants me to remove myself from all outside influences, nor do I think that He wants to chip away at everything fun in my life until my spirit cracks under the strain. I do believe that God expects more for my life than I’m currently getting, and it makes Him furious to see me haplessly missing out on so much for nothing. I believe that God will not stop working in me, tearing me apart, stopping me cold, and knocking me down until I let Him put me together, build me up, and set me running toward the priceless prize of a victorious, blessed, abundant, effective life.
It’ll be a messy process, sure, but I’d rather pursue wholeness erratically than collapse slowly and predictably. Will I find exactly the right balance of media in my life tomorrow? Not a chance. Will I ever find it? Probably not. Will I pray consistently, work diligently, and move purposefully toward it? Absolutely. And on the days that I fail to do so, will I give up? Never. Because true change isn’t a simple, three step process. True change comes from genuine perseverance and absolute conviction even when the monsters without and within fight against you full force. True change means not always winning but always going another round, and in the end true change is the greatest victory.