My son is by far and away my best friend. He is my fiercest advocate and harshest critic, a remarkable blend indeed. His humor is dark, as in eclipse dark. It can be witty and wise, but it can also be caustic and cutting. He often puts me in my place, and I find this place to usually be higher ground.
I recall a phone call we had following my return to assist my old home church, which yielded some disturbing experiences. Here’s how that conversation went…
“So, Dad, are you still angry?”
“It will always hurt, and obviously the topic is like a chipped tooth to a tongue. Still, I am doing my best to heal and forgive. ”
“Dad, all they did was disown you, discard you, and then during your grief over Patty (my late wife) offered you an Amish shunning. To be honest, I think you have become far humbler, and a good deal kinder. I think this whole experience has forced you to mature big time.”
“Thanks for pointing out the silver lining. I hope your future is filled with happiness and hope and herpes.”
“Why thank-you Dad, but I am being at least a little bit serious. You have been forced to see yourself in a new light, and this time it is not a spotlight. You have had to contend with some real betrayal and nastiness – which, I think, is often true to the Christian tradition and the church, even if it is your home church.”
“Justin, what the hell is your point?”
“Dad, you know many folks there treated you unfairly, and did so simply to avoid looking at their own resistance to real change, and their own failure to lead. You were a scapegoat. Still, the experience has definitely deepened you and sensitized you.”
“Glad to be of service.”
“But Dad, you do need to move on. Don’t you agree?”
My temper flashed big time at this point, and I went on one wild rant about what people really mean when they tell us to move on. They want us to get out of their hair. They want us to be past our pain or hurt. They want us to quit repeating ourselves, or trying to make sense out of what seems absurd. Most of all, they do not want to get involved, or admit they could care less, or have to contend with our sadness or anger or depression. They want to have a normal good day, and they are sick and tired of folks like me spoiling it for them.
There is a callousness to the call of moving on, a cold-hearted motivation, a deep desire to not to contend with anyone else’s conflicts, issues or pain. The request to move on isn't filled with compassion, though the voice may drip with it, rather, it is instead soaked in cruelty and cynicism. I do not care how true the comment “move on” might appear on the surface, most people move on as quickly as they can, as best they can, and while living in this “make it snappy” culture of ours, often find themselves acting fine only not to hear the inane comment ”move on” one more time.
“I see you have not gone very far in the moving on department Dad.”
I told him I disagreed, but that my moving on was not simply a rearranging of the furniture, or keeping people happy by faking being fine. I told my son I was moving on, but I now had a limp, a few noticeable scars, and a heart which carried a permanent bruise. I have changed. I am a different person, and for me, moving on is witnessing myself heading off in a whole new direction.
I told him he was right. My humility had grown, and so had my appreciation for being just another ordinary guy. I also explained that for some strange reason, I found myself far more centered and at ease. I am definitely calmer and more focused. I know who I am, and what I want. I will never again put myself in a professional or personal setting so void of honesty or maturity or communication. I will insist on intimacy, and I will help create it.
“Is that happening at your new church?”
“Yes, to some degree, but the Church is seldom a bastion of honesty and maturity. The power of cliques, the tenacity of gossip, and the failure to forgive remain rampant in most churches. At times the Church still feels like being back in the eighth grade -- trying so hard to be popular and fit in.”
I then told my son the truth, the gospel truth. Though a rough sketch, it was still an accurate depiction of how I understood moving on.
For me, moving on means learning to live with less, especially less stuff, less emotional clutter, and far less of a need to be spiritual distracted by my addiction to being needed.
Moving on is doing away with most small talk. I want big talk. I want to talk about issues and topics which matter, and make us grow and question and doubt and seek and explore. I want fewer conversations about nothing, and just a few intimate chats about everything I care passionately about.
Moving on is a matter of acceptance. I must accept my age, and all the missed opportunities, failures and flops. I must accept my very fat body with skin tags under my arms that look like Stonehenge. I must accept a penis which cowers in fear behind folds of fat, and secretly is grateful to be off the hook.
I have to accept that I only have a few good books left in me to write, and that my painting will remain a fixture of my gift giving to friends and family – no galleries will come calling.
I must admit that Life has picked up the pace, and the slide downhill is ridiculously quick. I must accept the coming years, and their inherent demand for respecting the risks of a fall, and the need to move in spite of the pain. I must accept the reality of God’s shout to me to eat balanced meals and have a balanced life.
Moving on means surrender. I am not in control. I am not in charge. I am not steering the ship any longer. I am rapidly becoming a spiritual passenger on a ship whose next port just may be a portal. As Jim Harrison (a writer we both love) wisely opined, “I am rounding third base, and home plate is a hole.”
“Justin, my moving on is not physical, it is spiritual. I must come to a new place, a new set of understandings and insights, and most of all get ready to be transformed. I want to be transformed into a simpler soul, less frenzied, less addicted to people pleasing and performing and trying to be perfect, and more inclined to savor the gift of a quiet and peaceful existence and day. In truth, from here on out, I hope to just make someone’s day every day.”
“Well, start today. I need a couple hundred.”
Reverend William R. Grimbol has spent the past 30+ years helping people create and develop strong spiritual connections with loved ones and God. He is also a published author, with over a dozen books to his credit.