66. Family, Friends & Fears

FAMILY, FRIENDS & FEARS

     It’s been a week where I’ve been inundated by memories!!  On multiple occasions I have strolled through nostalgic moments of my past as I’ve looked once again at photos of my family and friends over the years.  It was not a purposeful quest planned in advance, but rather simply an unexpected side trip from my normal routine. The people I saw in these photos brought a smile to my face and a deep sense of gratitude in my heart.  I’ve truly been blessed by so many who have shared my life journey with me.

     It all started with National Daughter’s Day earlier this week.  I have to admit, I didn’t even know that was on the calendar until I signed onto my Facebook account.  Suddenly I was seeing photos of the daughters of my friends and family members from all over the country.  While I know some of the daughters personally, the real attraction for me was my relationship with their parents.  These were friends from my youth, past ministry assignments, shirttail cousins, co-workers, mentors,  teammates, and even my own family. Seeing their photos with their daughters took me down experiences I shared with them, obstacles we overcame together,  victories we celebrated, defeats we endured, people we interacted with,  and laughter we shared.  I haven’t really “seen” some of these folks for well over 40 years, yet there is a kinship there I cannot forget. 

    Of course, as you might guess, that led me to memories of my experience with my own daughter, Marci.  I vividly recall the moment she was born,  the ecstatic smile on my wife’s face,  introducing her to her two older brothers, dressing her in everything frilly we could find,  watching her grow up into a young lady,  beaming proudly at her college graduation,  being amazed as I’ve watched her care for her own two children, and sharing so many happy memories together at Disneyland,  Autzen Stadium,  around the Christmas tree, and just doing life together since we live in the same town.  She’s been a  blessing in my life in so many ways.

     Not to be outdone, almost the next day on Facebook everyone was celebrating National Son’s Day!  Again, I was seeing friends, old and new, sharing photos of their boys– some very young and some fully grown.   Not to be outdone, I quickly became nostalgic as I considered the privilege I had of raising two sons.  The stories of their births are both unique and something I will never forget. Our first son was born while my wife was hospitalized for 2nd & 3rd degree burns on her hands, arms, and stomach, and our second son, who came just over 3 weeks later than expected, was born while the movers were packing up our house for the trip across the country upon my discharge from the Air Force two days later.  During my years of Youth Ministry my sons as toddlers became “beloved mascots” of the youth group.  I was their Little League coach for years, then their partner in feverish racquetball games, pickup basketball, and even a little golf.   I’ve watched them grow into men, graduate from college, take on their careers and raise families of their own.   They’ve become incredible dads and share my passion for the Oregon Ducks!   Though I don’t get to see them as often as their sister, I’m grateful for times that we can connect and the opportunities we have just to sit down to talk.   

    If that were not enough, some of my friends from my teenage years seem to have all been celebrating birthdays or anniversaries in the past couple of weeks.  Again, Facebook is the culprit,  reminding me of these people who were such an important part of my life so many years ago.  I’ve kept up with some of them over the years, but I’ve only reconnected with others recently.  It’s hard to believe after so many miles and experiences that the memories of the time we spent together can still be so vivid. 

     Family and friends are a part of all of our lives!  They bring back memories of simpler times,  enjoyable experiences, and special occasions.  We’re amazed at how much some folks change over the years in their appearance  (like me!), and shocked by how little others have changed (like my wife!). Most of our kids have grown and have families of their own.  Even some of our grandkids have grown and begun to start their own families.  Long lost friendships get reunited through things like Facebook, yet others are lost to the unknown.  These relationships are all pieces of the fabric of our lives.  Together they make a collage that tell our story. 

     But that brings up the third “F” in the title of this blog…..FEAR!   I guess at every stage of life there is an element of fear.  While some of that has to do with things that impact us physically, much of it has to do with what that means to the relationships we have with others.  As a kid you may fear climbing a tree because you might fall out and get hurt,  riding a bike because you might crash,  or fighting back against a bully because you don’t want to get black eye.  But as you get older our fears often change from physical pain to relational pain. Teenagers often struggle in their relationships with others because of their own low self-esteem.  Women sometimes marry the wrong man because they’re afraid no one else will ask them.  Men settle for jobs they don’t like because they’re overwhelmed by the responsibilities they’ve taken on to provide for their families and too scared to try something else.  Fear is pervasive in relationships at times, often because we don’t want to lose what we have to venture into the unknown. We don’t know who is going to be there to support us in the future.   If we have/had a good family and good friends,  the idea of trying to build new relationships can be daunting. We don’t want to lose the ones we have, and we’re not sure if we truly want to find new ones.

    I have to admit I’ve been there lately.  I know part of that has to do with getting older.  Seeing photos of my teenage friends is somewhat alarming.  Most of them are becoming Senior Citizens…….like ME!   I vividly recall driving around Salt Lake City with friends from my youth group, and all the heartbreaks of those summer camp romances.  It seems like yesterday that I was serving in the Air Force, then enrolling in college, getting married and becoming a father for the first time.  I served in churches,  had a couple of jobs with national ministries that gave me the opportunity to travel around the country, and was fortunate to go some places and see some things I never thought I would see.   And it’s because of that…….and realizing that this is all in the past……that fear can sometimes creep into my life.  Those days are all over!  The faces of my friends on Facebook remind me that I’m not a teenager anymore……..or even a newlywed…..or a young father……..or in a position to trek around the country on business as I did for 10+ years.   The fear is,  “What’s next?” 

     A lot of people are feeling that type of fear right now, for a variety of reasons.  This has certainly been a year unlike any other year, and that alone is enough to give people a moment or two of doubt about the future. But beyond the obvious distractions of 2020,  I think there’s a deeper fear that often lurks beneath the surface of our consciousness.  It the increasingly fast paced world that we live in, where things change almost overnight, both for the good and the bad.  People are just a bit shell-shocked and, in many cases, without the needed support system to sustain them.  They long for deeper relationships that are impervious to the changing mores of society.  They are looking for security in something besides the economy, politics, or even organized religion.  Amidst all the busyness and noise they seek something stable, trustworthy, reassuring, and personal.  They are seeking genuine relationships, not just more friends on Facebook, Linked-in, or Instagram.

     I believe the fear so many people are feeling, including myself at times,  is truly a by-product of the world we are living in right now.  So much around us seems to be subject to waves of popular culture.  We are no longer shocked by “shocking headlines”.  The news cycle is short-lived and before you know it we’re on to the next crisis  — a natural disaster here,  a horrible crime there,  a political divide everywhere.   Bad news comes to us in waves, creating overlapping feelings of despair, distrust, and disillusionment.  This fear is both personal and corporate. What’s going to happen to me,  to my family,  to our community, to our country?  Can things really go from bad to worse?   How will my story end?  Will I have enough money to live on?  Will I end up in a nursing home?  Will I be able to restore those strained relationships?  How did my life fly by so fast? 

    The fear is real……but so is the solution!  In the old King James version the Bible says “Cast all your cares upon Him, for He careth for you”  (1 Peter 5:7).    I have some great memories of my family and friends over the years.  I get nostalgic when I see their photos and remember the times we shared.  And, I can get a bit fearful realizing those days are gone and an unknown future lies ahead.  But I’m grateful I don’t have to give into those fears because my best relationship is with the one who knows me the best and loves me the most.  I miss the days of my past, but I’m exciting to face my future with confidence because I know He cares!