There are experiences that have shaped who I am in various ways. Even though there are parts of my life that were painful and difficult I feel very fortunate to live the life that I have lived. Yet, there is no going back to the person I was prior to any of those points. Sure, I can romanticize the past occasionally, thinking back to a simpler time. Yet, even if you could turn back the clock I am a different person than I was. There really is no going home the same way as you began your journey. The road has changed each of us, and for me I can be thankful for those changes.
I would have never chosen to be color deficient and be denied the ability to fly (which was my life’s ambition through middle school and high school) or to be able to utilize an appointment to the Naval Academy (which I worked hard to receive), but it led me to being a part of the Corps of Cadets and the band at Texas A&M and a whole different set of experiences. I would have never chosen to receive Chemical Corps as a branch when I graduated from college and was commissioned into the army, with a civil engineering major I was planning on either the Corps of Engineers or a second choice of Armor. Yet, it put me in positions with people who helped form me as a leader and probably made it easier for me to accept my calling to enter seminary. I would have never chosen to have my son diagnosed with autism, and at the time of the diagnosis I raged at the injustice of it and the broken dreams that I had for my son, yet I have learned more from him than I could have ever imagined and as a 17-year-old young man I am proud of what he has accomplished. I would not have chosen going through the experiences of conflict in a congregation that I did in my second call and the amount of emotional and personal upheaval it caused, yet I would not be the person or pastor I am today without that experience. I would not have chosen to be denied entry into PhD programs multiple times during that same period but it forced me to find my own avenue for creative activity. I would not have chosen to see my marriage of 13 years dissolve no matter how much effort, work and love I poured into it, but without that painful experience I’m not sure I would have rediscovered who I am or been ready for the relationship that I am very happy to have with my wife of almost a year. The list could go on and on, for there are countless experiences that formed me to be who I am. Each time I had to make sense of the change and figure out a way forward and there are gifts from each experience, even when they may have been heartbreaking at the time.
Yet, because of each of these experiences I am a different person than I was before. Because of that I see things in a new light. There have been times where I have been told to ignore a part of my story because it didn’t fit where I am. It took me a long time, for example, to reconcile my experiences of seminary and my experiences in the military—they felt like two pieces of a story from two different lives. Each experience was very different and forced me to be able to engage the paradox that is life and the beauty and complexity of the interaction of the stories that shaped me, the experiences of the present and the hope and challenges of the desired future at any time. I am thankful for the wide range of experiences that my forty-three years have allowed me. I am the man I am today because of this journey.