I don’t remember much about my family’s move to Laredo, Texas in 1981 – I was only four years old. I’m sure it wasn’t easy for my parents, leaving their family and friends, leaving these lush green fields and old back roads and creeks they used to play in barefoot, when they were children. Lancaster has a way of drawing you in from an early age, and it sinks its talons in real deep. I’m sure it wasn’t easy to leave.
While I don’t remember the move itself, I do remember Laredo. I remember the first trailer we lived in, a single-wide planted in a treeless dust bowl of a trailer park. I remember the little, blue, plastic pool my sister and I sat in, filled with water from the cracked hose. I remember how we used to get impetigo, a skin infection that thrives in the heat and humidity and dust. The dilapidated trailer didn’t help with this, and it was so hot, so we moved.
I remember the second trailer, a tan one in another trailer park.
I remember hearing that there was a swimming pool in our new trailer park. My mother packed us up for a walk through the mid-day heat. Now that I have children of my own, I know what a production that can be: changing into swimsuits, slicking everyone up with sunscreen, grabbing a few pool-friendly toys and maybe a lawn chair. She probably carried all of this plus my two-year-old sister. I probably walked, dragging my towel through the dusty dirt roads, eyes peeled for red ants wielding cross bows with fiery arrows.
The next image is my life’s metaphor for disappointment: an empty swimming pool, slimy green and full of lizards, surrounded by a rusty chain-link fence and tumbleweed. We walked back the way we came. I’m sure my mom was pretty down about it. She probably went inside and cried while I drove my hot wheels trike around the cement slab beside our trailer, the rumbling plastic wheels sounding like far-off thunder.
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I remember when dad and I made up our own set of signals. The Nerf football was as big as my torso, but somehow I hiked it through my legs to him and ran the passing route into the kitchen. “1″ was a long straight pass, sometimes caught all the way back in the hall. “2″ was short, and dad threw a laser, digging the pointy end of the football into my bony rib cage – I never liked “2″ very much. “3″ was hook right. “4″ was hook left. “5″ was fake short and go long.
Dad called the plays inside that trailer for hours, and I ran the routes.
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He used to take me for rides on his motorcycle out the dusty trailer park lane, to the highway and back. I remember one time we saw a road runner: a real live cartoon in my three-dimensional world. I never even knew such a thing existed.
I see pictures of my dad now, when he was 24, with a mustache that looks like something he glued on to cover up his baby face. He looks like a kid in those picture. He was a kid, thirteen years younger than I am now, starting a church in a place where he couldn’t even speak the language, his wife and two young children along for the ride.
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There are a few things I learned from my dad over the years. I learned that if God puts it in your heart that it’s time to move on, it’s a mistake to stay one more day, no matter what you’re doing or how you might try to rationalize it. I learned that taking a job just for the money is something people do when they don’t know the real value of things. I learned that living, really living, usually happened when you had no idea what the next day held, or where your pay would come from, or where you might be going.
In other words, living, really living, only happened on the other side of trust.
I’m proud of my dad, because when he resigned on Sunday from his position as pastor of a church he loves, of a church he founded 11 years ago, he didn’t leave because of a scandal. He didn’t leave because he was asked to leave. He didn’t leave because he found a bigger church or a better paying church.
No, he left because it was time. He left because that still small voice told him it was time. With nothing on the horizon, no employment or promised position, he walked away, simply out of a desire to trust that God’s leading is enough.
Oh, that we would all be so sensitive to that Voice!
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Living my father’s kind of life has literally taken me around the world, both when I was a kid at the mercy of his decisions, and now as an adult, as my wife and I have taken on much the same approach. It’s a good life, this life of trust, this life of willingness to follow. It’s a hard life, not knowing, not always having, not always living the same as everyone around us.
But most of all, I guess, it’s an alive life. An abundant life. An invigorating life.
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