I am shamefully afraid of heights. I mean, I am terrified of being elevated in the air by more than a couple of feet. Roller coasters are not entertainment but rather a torture device created by the cruelest of men. To put it into context, I get a little nervous just standing on top of a 6 foot ladder. Because of that, I’ve never been that adventurous of a person. I’d rather play it safe and am generally an overly cautious individual. I was always adverse to risk and confrontation.
Which brings this conversation I had nearly 10 years ago into great perspective. I was either filled by the Spirit or completely insane to do what I did. I sat down across the desk of a man that I had both respected and admired. He was a very spiritual man and a highly educated one too. It’s just not that often I get to sit across from men who helped found a seminary. Unfortunately for me, I had this meeting not to glean knowledge from him or to study under him. In fact, it was a “clearing of the air” meeting where I needed to bring up some ways where I felt he wasn’t entirely fair or kind regarding his assessment of me. I was deemed unworthy to be dating his daughter at the time, and his reasoning that I wasn’t “good enough” didn’t exactly register with me. How do you determine the value of someone that you’ve interacted with just twice in a group setting?
The conversation led to him drawing a diagram for me. It was a ladder. Each rung represented a level of leadership and responsibility that person could manage. The lowest rung represented the immediate community, the second lowest represented the local area and so forth with the highest two being one with a national and international capacity. I didn’t climb too high in his eyes and he saw my highest capacity about three to four rungs high. No further than a regional level. You can guess where he saw his daughter. (Hint: It was much higher than mine.)
The other thing that he told me was that I couldn’t become a spiritual leader because of my family of origin. My parents are not Christians and therefore he believed I wouldn’t have the capacity or the know how to lead a home as the spiritual leader. I mean, how could I possibly do what was never modeled for me? He saw me as being set up to fail and his daughter could not be a part of that sinking ship.
10 years later, now married and with a daughter of my own, I can sympathize with that man. If I saw some bum pursuing my daughter, I’d encourage her to not give him the time of day. Naturally, my hope is that I’ll have raised her well enough to differentiate between a quality man and an idiot so I won’t need to step in myself. Thankfully I still have a few years before I get to that point, but as I think about my future and my family’s future, I want to take stock of where exactly I came from.
Those of you who know my wife know that she is not ordinary by any means. At least not in the spiritual sense. Most of her insight doesn’t come from anything learned, read or trained. It’s mostly instinct and intuition. It is God-given and it is amazing. It is breathtaking to watch TJ in her element. I would much rather watch her in ministry than hop in a time machine to watch Pele in his prime. She is just that incredible. And this isn’t just me being her biased husband. Most of you have stopped me in my tracks just to tell me how amazing she is. It is something that’s just so evident and clear to the world around her. Which leads me to the obvious question, “Why in her right mind, would TJ marry someone like me?”
I carry with me that conversation with that man and a metaphorical ladder rung. I don’t carry it around as a chip on my shoulder and use it as a big “I told you so”. But rather I carry it around like a scar. It is healed, but you can still see the damage that was done. That conversation was absolutely brutal on me emotionally, as I would imagine for any other 20 year old. I want to remember how damaged I was so I’ll never inflict that kind of pain on anyone else, much less any suitors Eden has.
I’ve been very fortunate and blessed by the number of people who have commented on me and my marriage, on me as a husband and on me as a father. Every piece of affirmation in that area slowly tears away the wall of doubt in my heart and affirms that I am not nor will I ever be defined by that ladder rung. My spiritual legacy will not be defined by my heritage alone. I can have a godly marriage, be a godly husband and be a godly father, and even be a great spiritual leader despite my great fear in climbing high.