Thursday, June 11, 2009

The World as Best as I Can Remember It

Rich Mullins had two albums in the late 80s entitled "The World as Best as I Can Remember It, Vols. 1 & 2." I never really understood the titles, even after listening to Rich explain them in an interview. He said, "It is like when you go on a camping trip, and it rains the whole time. You think you are having a terrible time, and then years later you look back on it, and it wasn't so bad. It's like that."

Though I tried, I never really understood, but I am starting to.

A few weekends ago, we went camping and canoeing as a family for the very first time. When we got on the creek to canoe, it turns out that we had unknowingly picked a creek that requires closer to intermediate canoeing skills than beginner. The current was pretty fast. The rocks were around every bend. Each of our canoes capsized at one point causing stress and concern (on a side note, why is it that canoes always capsize so that the rushing water pins them to the rocks you just hit making it impossible to move them without super-human strength? Probably, the same invisible force that makes the toast fall jelly side down). By the end of the trip, we were all tired. We all had matching 3 inch sunburns on our legs (NOTE: shorts ride up when sitting. When applying sunscreen, take this into account). We all were praying that we would see the campsite around the next bend. I was teaching my summer class, "Faith and Suffering," and all I could think about was the choice I had made to go canoeing to bring this suffering on myself.

Finally, hot, wet, tired, sweaty, and sore, we all got into the van to drive home. Then, we started telling stories of the day. We started with Thomas' apparent spider-like super powers that allowed him to leap and climb on a capsized canoe. Then moved on to the cow that was standing in the creek, and Cindy's insecurity about whether it is proper etiquette to canoe behind a cow or in front. Then we moved on to the time Daniel's paddle got stuck in a rock. When I yelled for Cindy to grab it as she went by, the current had her moving so fast, she only had time to yell, "No!" as she went past us. Daniel swatting at wasps with his paddle and almost capsizing us. Having to limbo in a canoe to avoid the fallen tree.

With each story, we laughed harder and harder. By the time we got home, the pain in my shoulders was matched by the pain in my sides from laughing. It turns out that it wasn't a "suffering" that we were enduring. It was just hard. It was the good kind of hard that is necessary for any kind of achievement. It is the hard that is required to be a good parent. It is the hard that is required to be a good husband. It is very similar to the hard that is required for academic achievement. If it was easy, everyone would do it.

We don't have a lot of people these days willing to do the "hard." It gets hard, and they get out. When I look back at my grandparents, I see people who were willing to do the "hard" whatever it was—whatever it took to succeed when the world was difficult. I pray that I have a little more of that. I pray that I am more able to do the hard work it takes for great achievement . . . and not just want to win the lottery. Then when my kids are grown, I can look back and be proud of my work as a father. I can look back on my job and be proud of the things I achieved. I can look at who I am and be proud that I was someone who was willing to do the hard and not mind remembering it. Maybe I can get there.

And, that is the world as best as I can remember it.