My Ladder Rung

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.

About Jason

Stats and analysis nerd. Soccer lover. Remote worker. I distill, organize and simplify. It doesn't matter where I am (a restaurant, my pantry, my office, a store), but where I see complexity triggers a desire to bring order to the chaos. View all posts by Jason

5 responses to “My Ladder Rung

  • destinokristy (@destinokristy)


    Thanks for sharing this. I could resonate with much of it as it relates to my own story. When Eric and I were engaged there was a pastor we greatly respected and was a spiritual authority to many that told Eric that he shouldn’t marry me. He warned Eric about my broken family heritage and how many times men like him married women like me to rescue us from that heritage.

    Obviously, Eric married me anyway :). But that experience definitely marked me and messed with my sense of self. I questioned often whether I was “good enough” to marry in light of my background.

    During that same season I heard a sermon from John 9 about the man born blind that Jesus healed. The point that was made in it was that, much like the blind man, our broken heritage didn’t have to be a liability in our lives but rather a way to display God’s glory. It took me some time to embrace this, but I can now say with certainty that my own past isn’t a liability but a way that God can display his very glory through my unique life.

    Ironically, this sermon was given by that same pastor that told Eric not to marry me. A good reminder that we are all a mixed bag of brilliance and idiocy :).

    I’m glad you’ve had people speak into your life affirming who you are and your strengths as a leader. Thank God too for amazing spouses that can be redemptive voices in our lives :).

    • Jason

      Oh Kristy… That is both awful and awesome. Awful that you had to experience it, awesome in that Eric had the good sense to not listen to him. =) But thank you for sharing. It saddens me that you had to go through that but also comforts me that I’m not alone. And yes, it’s amazing what a good, Godly spouse can do for us. I’m happy Eric brought healing into that area.

      I love your line of “We are all a mixed bag of brilliance and idiocy”. I am quoting you on that. =)

  • ncictest

    So glad your injury from the past is being redeemed. And grateful that you are also an instrument of healing to so many.
    I’ve been pretty vocal with you about being one of your wife’s biggest fans but that goes for you too. S and I have both talked of you as an old soul with wisdom beyond your years. Climb the ladder? You OWN that ladder.

  • MikeH

    @destinokristy I wonder…if you had not heard that sermon and began to own/embrace your broken heritage would that potential for risk to your marriage that that pastor was concerned about still exist? Would it have been possible if left unchecked/unhealed that his concerns may have been proven true?

    Concerns raised from trusted friends/mentors(which btw is quite different from the scenario Jason was describing) or even acquaintences especially regarding marriage are often among the most difficult to hear and accept even under the best of circumstances. Prior to the day where one says “I do” I would hope we’d all have the courage to voice our concerns as we are led.

    Once the “I Do” is said however, I personally look to support the marriage strongly as I wouldn’t wish to see any more believers become a divorce statistic just to prove that I was “right”. I’m guessing this pastor would likely agree. 🙂

    • TJ Poon

      Thanks for reading, Mike!
      I have been in the sad situation where a good friend married, despite the reservations and concerns of everyone who knew this person best. It’s hard to see your warnings unheeded, especially when the results are so painful and long-lasting.
      But for a pastor or a spiritual mentor to suggest that a person shouldn’t marry another purely because of their past or family background is theologically indefensible to me. It would be loving for that mentor to kindly ask questions of the situation to determine if the past had been addressed, or if the couple had processed those things. Certainly, if the spiritual mentor saw character issues that they thought weren’t being dealt-with, that would be another thing to bring up in love, as many of us have had to do in situations with people we care about.
      I don’t know the specifics of destinokristy’s story, but that’s not how it read to me. Knowing her and her spouse personally, I believe that genuine concerns brought up in love would have been considered prayerfully and seriously.

      What makes me especially sad about this story and Jason’s, is that those who study family backgrounds point out how people from “healthy” families often have their own issues including, but certainly not limited to, a lack of compassion for others and spiritual pride. Those things are just as damaging in a marriage, and sometimes more so because they are harder to see and look “better” from the outside.

      Again, thanks for reading 🙂

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