My address these days resides at the corner of Availability, Authenticity, and Vulnerability. By now you are saying, "Okay Greg, I see what you are doing here. You tricked me into reading this blog thinking that you are requesting my physical address where I live!" Yes, I did use a bit of tomfoolery in my approach, but I am more interested in where you reside emotionally. My emotional address is not so illustrious these days, but I feel it is a residency that most should experience. I acknowledge full well that this is a topic that is not openly discussed, so allow me to dive in with both feet.
In case you are new to my blogs, my writing these days is formulated out of my grief journey. This particular journey started 17 months ago when I found out that my son David, who was serving in the Army at Fort Carson in Colorado Springs, CO passed away in a vehicle accident. Since that time, my life was thrown a curve ball, and I am still trying to make sense of what is up, and is there even a down. The things that mattered to me 17 months ago, have no blip on my radar, and the things I would never have thought about writing a blog about, now pour out of me. Hence these three important topics that I am going to delve into.
Availability. What does that even mean? How do you make yourself available to all? Well, you can't. I am talking about allowing God to use you on a daily basis to those around you. First off, let me throw out the disclaimer that I do not have it all figured out. I am writing this blog just as much for me, as I am for you. We can only make ourselves available to those around us in our daily sphere of influence. For example, yesterday I stopped by my sons grave in the middle of the day. I was finishing up a call with a work colleague as I pulled up the road in the cemetery. I noticed that it was especially busy with three cars right where I was going to park. I got out and immediately noticed that there was an older woman trying to carry 2 bags of topsoil and 2 bags of mulch about 200 feet to a gravesite. I immediately ran over to her and told her that she did not need to do that, but I would be glad to be her muscles for the afternoon. She was dumbfounded that somebody would offer such assistance to her at the cemetery, a place where most are mourning and keep to themselves. Come to find out that she is 82 years old, and was planting flowers at her husbands grave, who passed a year before my son. She said, "people keep telling me it will get easier, but I just miss him more every day!" I asked her if I could give her a hug, and she was delighted that I would be a ray of sunshine to not only carry over dirt and mulch, but to be concerned enough to ask about her journey, then to follow it up with some love and kindness. I then walked over to another older gentlemen who I noticed was weeping at the grave in the row in front of my son. He had walked back to his truck, and I asked him if he was okay, and if that was his wife's grave. He acknowledged that it was, and I told him I didn't want to bother him, but wanted him to know that he was seen in his hurt, and that I grieve alongside him. I then said hello to another woman who was trying to figure out if she should water some flowers before the storm that evening. I am not bragging at what I did. Quite the contrary. I am simply stating that in our brokenness (lets face it we are all broken in one way or another) we can come alongside our fellow man and love on them a bit. I could have used the excuse that I am hurting too, and nobody today has volunteered to speak to me. Or throw a pity party for myself and been selfish and made excuses that they didn't want to be bothered. Instead I let each one of them know that they are seen. In a world of seclusion and selfishness, most of us just want a little acknowledgement that we are seen and not put out to pasture.
Authenticity. Man, that word sounds so deep, and I struggle with its meaning most days. I think of what the word authentic means for a product. Years ago I was downtown Chicago at night (not something I would do now) and a street peddler came up to me and tried to sell me a Rolex for $50. Of course it doesn't take a genius to know that this is a knock-off watch that is not authentic. There is a big difference between a Rolex and a Polex. One is made with such craftsmanship, and the other is a cheap throw-away that will quit soon after starting. The Polex looks identical from the outside with all its glitz and glamour, but inside the craftsmanship and stamp of authenticity is just not there. Our creator and maker, God the Father, crafts us for such a time as this. He wants us to be authentic and genuine, and not some gimmick. In order to be this, we have to submit to His all consuming power to shape us into His image. Outside, we are already in the image of God, but just like the difference of the Rolex and Polex, it is about the guts internally that make the watch. It is about our inner spiritual being that makes us authentic. Titus 3 is one of my favorite passages in the Bible, so much so that I had it engraved on my own tombstone. Verse 5 says "He saved us, not by works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit." So as many good works as we do, if we are not authentic inside, then they fall by the wayside as a cheap knock-off and counterfeit money.
Vulnerability. This is aimed at all of us, but especially to my guy readers. This is not an address most of us have visited or choose to reside permanently. Maybe we have done a quick drive-by from the road and said NOPE, that is not for me. Most people do not like opening themselves up to what makes them tick. We all have fallen short of the glory of God, it is just that most have a hard time admitting there shortcomings. Last night a group of 6 of us guys who have lost a child in my community got together. It was the first time that I called a meeting like this, and nobody knew the others. I thought to myself, man Jacobs this is going to be like pulling teeth. First, men don't open up with other men they don't know. Secondly, they definitely are not prone to making themselves vulnerable to other men about their grief journey. For two hours I sat there and watched these men talk over each other, interrupt, and share their journey. You are probably thinking that I am using the talking over each other and interruptions as a negative, but it was quite the positive. Out of all of the men, I was the least down the road on my journey at 17 months, and one of the guys was 10 years down the road. They all were talking so much, because they couldn't believe there were other guys out there that were going through the same thing as they were, and they had a story to tell. All it took was me seeking them out in the community (and I know there are so many others) sitting us down in introduction, and turning them loose. Many expressed fears in coming to the event held at the park, as they didn't know what to expect. I would venture to say that the biggest choke point of hesitancy for vulnerability, is quite simply the fear of the unknown. Once you dip your toes in that water and realize it is tepid and not freezing, you are more willing to immerse yourself in the blessings that vulnerability can bring. It is not always fun to share with others your deepest darkest secrets (and I would emphasize that wisdom in knowing your audience should be practiced) but in order to mature with wisdom in life, making yourself vulnerable is the absolute foundational building block.
In summation, I reside at the corner of Availability, Authenticity, and Vulnerability. Not just because I was thrown into this environment kicking and screaming against my will. No, because my will said that I want to relinquish control of oneself to understand that God is in control and I am not. In order for me to grow in wisdom and learn from my circumstances and help my fellow man, I need to reside in those three areas. There is such freedom and liberty in letting go and making oneself real and honest, and dropping the fake façade that we are so surrounded by in todays day and age.
I hope that my blogs have been challenging and inspiring to you. I love reading the comments that you leave, so fee free to leave me a comment directly on this blog or on Facebook. Blessings to you on your journey, and I hope to come alongside you out there as we figure out life together on this road wrought with such turmoil.