Friends of Padre Steve’s World
It is interesting to think about life, what has transpired, and what might have been if only…
Over the past year I have set more retirement dates that Brett Farve. Finally in 9 days I will officially be retired from the Navy, but not quite. I will be in a retired -retained status which means that I will remain on active duty while not counting against the number of officers on active duty. So I have been quite reflective because finally after so many twists,turns, detours, and turnabouts, my military career is almost at an end. When I finally retire, retire on December 31st I will have served 39 years, four months and five days of unbroken service in the Army and its National Guard and Reserve components and as an active duty Navy Chaplain.
That is a lot of time and I often wonder about all the “what if’s” of my life and career.
Like anyone I wonder about all of the “what ifs” and “might have been” parts of my life. Of course there are many, going back to things that I could not control, such as the choices that my parents made regarding career, family, and home. Then there are my own choices, choices that I made, some for better, and some maybe for worse. Then there were the choices of men and women in my life and career that impacted my life and the decision that I made.
Some of my dreams, and nightmares too, involve those decisions, particularly the ones that I could not control; but then there were those decisions, particularly regarding my military career choices, that come back to haunt my dreams. Those can be troubling; the things that I volunteered to do and the costs of those to Judy as a result of those decisions. Many of those decisions, particularly my decisions to volunteer for certain deployments and operations have come at a great cost to both of us.
But then I am reminded that none of us have a crystal ball that allows us to see what the result of our decisions will be; none of us are God, or some other omniscient being. We make our decisions based on what we know, and what we think might be the outcome of our decisions.
Judy and I have been watching a marathon of Star Trek the Next Generationepisodes of late. We are currently in the midst of season six. One of the episodes that we watched the other night is called Tapestry where Captain Picard is killed, but given a chance by the being called the Q for a do-over, a second change at life. Picard ends up regretting the do-over, it alienates him from his friends, and turns him in to a different person. Instead of a starship captain is a nondescript lieutenant junior grade doing a job that he hates.
The resultant decision leaves Picard distraught and he complains to Q:
Picard: You having a good laugh now, Q? Does it amuse you to think of me living out the rest of my life as a dreary man in a tedious job?
Q: I gave you something most mortals never experience: a second chance at life. And now all you can do is complain?
Picard: I can’t live out my days as that person. That man is bereft of passion… and imagination! That is not who I am!
Q: Au contraire. He’s the person you wanted to be: one who was less arrogant and undisciplined in his youth, one who was less like me… The Jean-Luc Picard you wanted to be, the one who did not fight the Nausicaan, had quite a different career from the one you remember. That Picard never had a brush with death, never came face to face with his own mortality, never realized how fragile life is or how important each moment must be. So his life never came into focus. He drifted through much of his career, with no plan or agenda, going from one assignment to the next, never seizing the opportunities that presented themselves. He never led the away team on Milika III to save the Ambassador; or take charge of the Stargazer’s bridge when its captain was killed. And no one ever offered him a command. He learned to play it safe – and he never, ever, got noticed by anyone.
It is a fascinating exchange and one that when I wonder about the choices that I have made that I think about; because when all is said and done, my life, like all of ours is a tapestry. On reflection Picard tells Counselor Troi, “There are many parts of my youth that I’m not proud of. There were… loose threads – untidy parts of me that I would like to remove. But when I… pulled on one of those threads – it’d unravel the tapestry of my life.”
I think that I can agree with that. All the things in my life, the good things and the bad, as well as the paths not taken have all been a part of the tapestry of my life. I would not be who I am without them; and that I cannot comprehend. I would rather be the flawed me that is me, than the perfect me that never existed. Thus, all of those threads are in a sense precious and even holy.
It really hit me today, that even though I didn’t reach the pinnacle of my career hopes and dreams that I have been pretty damned blessed and that I am so happy over the way things turned out. I have had so many great opportunities and adventures, and in my final duty station I have had gotten to see my life, Priesthood, and ministry reborn, while at the same time the old hurts, wounds, disappointments and bitterness have faded. I’m happy doing what I do and who I am doing it with. As the great Lou Gehrig said: I’m the luckiest man in the world.”
I will be continuing to work in Mine Eyes Have Seen the Glory until it is complete which I think will be Friday or Saturday. I hope to put something here tomorrow but won’t promise anything because the book has to get done, sent to my agent and to a German Reporter seeking to run sections of it in Die Zeit, one of Germany’s largest newspapers in the hopes that one of her book publisher contacts will get it published there too.
Thanks for your patience, prayers, and encouragement.