What precipitated our talk was my volunteering with a task group of alumni from Yale Divinity School shaping our 35th “cluster reunion” (classes of ’76-’78) this October. I mentioned that one of the young reps from the alumni association working with us had suggested we might want to talk about how we are “winding down” our ministries and other careers. I caught a whiff of denial, perhaps, as one of my former classmates quickly countered we might not be winding down at all, but preparing for our “next big thing.” I told my brother that I kind of felt like I was winding down—working just as hard, mind you, but with no great expectations as in younger days.
Propinquity would have it—maybe even grace—that a writer detailing the LGBT movement within mainstream Protestant U.S. churches asked me at this time to be among those reviewing the manuscript for accuracy. I am grateful to be remembered for the various roles I played as an activist helping LGBT people claim our memberships, ministries, and marriages within the church and culture. And to know that we are at least on our way to complete success. Career-wise for me (he said wistfully) I just wish it had come a little sooner.
As I encourage former classmates to come to the reunion, I am learning what high achievers they have been in their various vocations, denominations, non-profit organizations, academic institutions, and humanitarian causes. They have worked hard applying what they learned in seminary to the world. Jesus would be proud.
As those who follow this blog know, I was also reading Viktor Frankl’s epic Man’s Search for Meaning during this time. I can’t help but chuckle at my choice of texts at a time when “man’s search for his glasses” might be more pertinent! But Frankl, a concentration camp survivor who founded the psychiatric school of logotherapy, remarks on our desire to leave “an immortal ‘footprint in the sands of time’”:
Usually, to be sure, man considers only the stubble field of transitoriness and overlooks the full granaries of the past, wherein he had salvaged once and for all his deeds, his joys and also his sufferings. Nothing can be undone, and nothing can be done away with. I should say having been is the surest kind of being.
And, instead of envying the future of the young, Frankl says the old instead may affirm:
“Instead of possibilities, I have realities in my past, not only the reality of work done and of love loved, but of sufferings bravely suffered. These sufferings are even the thing of which I am most proud, though these are things which cannot inspire envy.”
“Having been is the surest kind of being.” We can be proud of work done, love loved, joys welcomed, sufferings endured. Being a “has been” doesn’t sound so bad, does it?
Copyright © 2012 by Chris R. Glaser. All rights reserved. Permission granted for non-profit use with attribution of author and blogsite, http://chrisglaser.blogspot.com. Donations welcome!
For a related post, check out “I Wanted to Be Famous!” (June 1, 2011) on this blog.