Posted: January 1, 2015 in Faith
Tags: , ,

On a recent trip into the city, I came across a postcard advertising a New Year’s Eve celebration in Harlem. Written on the black card in bold white caps was the word “BECOMING.” A subtitle was followed by the question “what are you becoming?”

what are you becoming?

What am I becoming?

As a family in recent years we have been failing forward in attempts to observe the liturgical season of Advent. Hoping for a period of hopeful anticipation wrapped in peaceful reflection. Instead what still seems to occur to a large extent is a month-long stress fest of Holiday gatherings, gift buying, vacation planning and playing the role of community Social Worker to family, friends and the church. A side note for anyone interested in going into the field of social work – what the books do not tell you is that social workers aren’t just on the clock for an 8-5 (and normally more) gig, but you become the default social worker for everyone in your extended network. It is an honorable yet incessant profession.

A fringe benefit is the ability to turn your own social work assessment skills onto yourself. Over the past month or so, amidst the stress, I have noticed I have been more prone to flashes of daydreaming. This is a recognizable coping mechanism, a subconscious effort to flee stressful moments. One of these mental escape visions occurs most frequently and I wondered what it might say about who I am currently.

It’s Game 1 of the World Series. Top of the first. I am leading off, batting left handed. First pitch fastball low and away. I gracefully, confidently, prepare to drop the barrel of the bat into the strike zone while beginning to lean my body toward first. I absorb the velocity into the wood, transferred into my left hand before returning just enough force to lay the ball down. A bunt. The ball slowly advances up the third base line. Centered between the grass and the chalk. The third baseman double clutches before deciding to let it roll. Hoping for a foul bounce that does not come. Indefensible. I run through the bag and return with a half drawn grin, ripping the Velcro of my batting gloves before lightly fist bumping the first base coach. I can’t hear them, but I am sure the media in the press box is marveling at my brazen execution. In a game of momentum, we suddenly have the lead.

My wife laughed out loud when I shared this with her. Specifically that in the vision I am batting left handed. Outside of front yard wiffle ball games and a few select rec league softball games I did not bat left handed. Nor for that matter did I bunt. I had good speed playing ball as a kid but I also had good power. So despite often batting leadoff, I always preferred to hit a first pitch fastball out of the park rather than lay down a bunt single. Certainly, I quit playing long before ever having a reasonable shot at playing professionally and nowhere in the 2015 forecast is there a chance of signing with a big league ball club, especially one World Series bound. A fantasy for sure.

But why this one?

Playing baseball at all harkens to a simpler time with less real responsibility and more overt praise of my skill set and potential. Batting left handed tells me I am feeling vulnerable approaching life’s important moments from a position that is learned, not natural. By the book, batting leadoff means you take the first pitch. Breaking this rule in a situation of great importance says I long to take more risks. But the unorthodox success that follows in the dream shows I am less interested in actual risk taking and more occupied with succeeding in risk taking. Being seen as a brilliant strategist capable of flawless execution. Not so deep down, I desperately want to be viewed as an elite and valuable player with an attitude certified as confident rather than arrogant.

But I am not confident in this moment. I am afraid. I do not have all the answers, I may not have any. The bunt itself actually belies any good intentions, manipulating a maneuver largely associated with sacrifice into an occasion for self aggrandizement. Perhaps the truth is I want to be on a winning team, but only if I have a starring role. Worse, the vision entails no such reference to team or to victory. It seems I may be satisfied to be viewed as a competent and talented martyr, playing as an individual on a team headed for defeat.

What I am becoming?

In sharp contrast to my daydream is a memory I have of a co-worker eight years ago. We had just moved from Montana to Connecticut and I was in training to work at a school for adolescents with mental health and behavioral issues. We were asked to participate in an ice-breaker activity in which a deck of cards with pictures on them was passed around the room. We were then asked to identify the image we most associated ourselves with. I remember choosing a picture of a palm tree on a white sandy beach set against a bright blue sky. It reminded me of my San Diego home in a time that a new arrival to New England and a new job afforded great unfamiliarity.

Shola was a fascinating middle-aged woman from Nigeria. Her thick accent a tell of her non-Western upbringing and values. When it came time for Shola to share her chosen card, she spoke slowly and pointedly. She had selected a picture of a lamb. The lamb had been forewarned by one of the trainers as looking crazy, so when I saw it with its big strained eyes and open mouth I had dismissed it rather quickly, not finding myself in the strange looking sheep. But Shola did.

She noted with all sincerity, without an ounce of presumption, that she had selected the lamb because of its gentle nature and its willingness to be obedient. I wrote in my journal at the time that it wasn’t hard to see her servant-nature and noted my prayer was to be able to grow into that kind of maturity.

This is what I hope to become.

I will remain committed to failing forward. Aiming to become a better listener. A more humble servant with a better sense of boundaries. A more vulnerable person.

I believe Social Work Researcher and TED Talker Brené Brown when she says, “Faith minus vulnerability and mystery equals extremism. If you’ve got all the answers, then don’t call what you do faith.” (Thanks to Debby McCrary for sharing this quote).

I am listening to the recently penned words of Don Miller that “I can only do three big things in a year. That’s it. Just three.” Accordingly, I am trying to remember that to excel in one “Yes” may demand a thousand “No”s.

I am wishing to quiet my inner turmoil and be liberated from self-importance through simple obedience. I am hoping to be able to hear the still small voice of the Spirit via communal discernment. I crave to know the meaning and value of Sabbath as a Spiritual Discipline.

Help me out. Let’s fail forward together. Let me learn from you.

What are you becoming?


  1. erfisher says:

    Thanks for the sobering words. This is a question i often ask myself.

  2. The vulnerability was the first thing that struck me in this blog as you revealed not only your fantasy but your less than charitable interpretation of it. Having a dozen such fantasies, it is tempting to console you rather than reflect on what those fantasies say about me. I found especially insightful your reflection on the individualism reflected in your fantasies, abandoning the well-being of the community for personal glory. I’ll attempt to give that point the contemplation it deserves. But just so you know, Josh, you are my favorite baseball player ever, even if you never made it to the pros.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s