growing up

Exit 249. I like consistency.

The TV show The Goldbergs is one of the most relatable shows to me in the history of television.  The show is about growing up in the 1980s with a crazy family.  That was my life (except that we’re not an East Coast Jewish family).  The show’s creator, Adam F. Goldberg, is the same age as me, and he basically just wrote a sitcom based on his actual family and childhood friends.  Many of the episodes’ stories themselves are based on true stories.  (“Adam” and all other names in this writing related to The Goldbergs will refer to the characters, not the actual persons on whom they are based, since this distinction may be relevant at times.)

By now, I’ve seen almost every episode from all six seasons (so far) of the show.  Every now and then, though, I’ll turn on Goldbergs reruns and see one that I haven’t seen before.  That happened a few weeks ago, with an episode from season 3.  One of the recurring story lines throughout season 1 involves the preteen Adam’s interest in a girl named Dana, who becomes his first girlfriend.  At the end of season 2, Dana tells Adam that she and her family are moving across the country because her dad got a job out of the area.  The beginning of season 3 finds Adam and Dana in eighth grade and attempting a long distance relationship (which in the 1980s could only be done with expensive long distance telephone calls).

Dana comes to visit a few times that year.  In this episode, the one which I saw for the first time recently, Adam is excited for Dana’s impending visit; he prepares to do all the things that they loved to do together before she moved, including going to a Weird Al Yankovic concert.  (Yankovic himself guest stars, wearing his hair as he did in the 80s.)  But Dana is unenthusiastic about doing all of those things.  Adam and Dana realize that they have grown apart as they have grown up, and they break up at the end of the episode.

As I’ve said before, I’ve had a hard time dealing with this kind of thing happening in my own life.  I like consistency.  I didn’t really have a group of friends in childhood, and when I finally got one late in high school, we all dispersed and moved away soon after, and I lost touch with most of them.  And I’m going through it again.  The group of friends I’ve spent the most time with over the last several years is shrinking.  Many of the others have grown up, gotten married, had children, and in various other ways taken on new adult lives, leaving them less time for game nights with friends or staying up ridiculously late.  Some have jobs that limit their social time.  (I have a job, but I manage to make socializing happen anyway, to some extent.  That’s probably why I’m tired all the time.)  Others have drifted out of my social circle for numerous other reasons.  And some people have moved away; I have had an unusually large number of friends move away in 2019, or plan to do so soon.

Why is all of this happening?  Some of it is just a natural part of life.  People grow and change, and their friendships and relationships change as a result of this, much like the story of Adam Goldberg and Dana.  This might not be what I want, but sometimes there’s just no way to stop it.

Or maybe, just maybe, God is clearing out my life to prepare me for something new.  Maybe I myself will be moving out of the area as well.  (God answered a prayer about that in the negative a few months ago, and I have no plans to move at this point, but who knows what will happen in the long term.)  Maybe I will become involved in a time-consuming way at my little 10-person church, as we find ways to grow.  Maybe there will be a new activity or a new relationship or a new hobby of some sort, or something I can’t even imagine right now.  Or maybe I’ll just make new friends, or for some reason shift my priorities to one of the other social circles of which I am on the periphery.  Not much I can do about it.  I just have to figure out which parts of my life to hold on to and which to let go of, and not stay stuck in the grieving phase when parts of my life are ripped from me through no fault of my own.

Exit 221. The best I can with the life I’ve been given.

Recently, one of my friends shared on Facebook that her daughter was pregnant, and that she was going to be a grandmother for the first time. This announcement was significant to me because of how I know this grandmother-to-be: she was in my high school graduating class.

I’ve known for years that this moment would be coming soon, and I’ve been dreading it. Having children was never on my radar, I’ve always felt like I was missing out on something special because of that, and now I’m old enough to be theoretically having grandchildren. It’s quite likely that she isn’t even the first grandparent in our graduating class. Quite a few of my classmates already have adult children (we’re in our early 40s currently), and at least three-fourths of my classmates I have heard nothing from since we graduated. I know of people my age and younger who have older spouses and step-grandchildren, and I know of someone in the class a year older than us who was a grandmother at age 39. But it hits home a little more when it’s someone whom I’m actually in social media contact with.

I’ve been dreading this because it is just a reminder of the fact that having children has never been something to consider for me, which in turn is a reminder of my failure to form or have a romantic relationship. I am constantly surrounded by reminders of this, and it makes me feel like there is something wrong with me.

But it doesn’t have to be like this. I can just keep doing the best I can with the life I’ve been given. And I have plenty of reminders of experiences I’ve had, and continue to have, that wouldn’t be possible had I had children. This isn’t what I naturally think about first when this happens, but I need to learn to change my thinking.

And besides, most of the greatest human beings who ever lived weren’t like everyone else.

Exit 215. Time to tear it down.

Something came up this morning at church that I had never noticed before, something very relevant to my life currently.

Moses delivered the nation of Israel from slavery under Pharaoh, but because of their unfaithfulness, God did not let them enter and conquer their rightful home for 40 years, until all the unfaithful have died. They don’t learn their lesson, and at one point, they complain to Moses about the living conditions in their nomadic state.  God punished the unfaithful by making some of them die of snake bites.  The survivors asked and prayed for forgiveness, and God told Moses to make a bronze statue of a snake and put it somewhere for people to look at it, to remember God’s faithfulness to them.  Anyone who was bitten by a snake could look at the bronze snake and live (Numbers 21:4-9).

Hundreds of years later, Israel is an established nation with a king… well, briefly. They plunge into civil war and divide into two nations. The northern kingdom did not follow the commandments of God, and the southern kingdom mostly did not either, although there were a few southern kings who did bring the people back to following God during their nonconsecutive reigns.  One of those was Hezekiah, who lived about 700 years before the coming of Jesus.  The Second Book of Kings says that “He [Hezekiah] did what was right in the eyes of the Lord, just as his [ancestor] David had done.  He removed the high places, smashed the sacred stones, and cut down the Asherah poles.  He broke into pieces the bronze snake Moses had made, for up to that time the Israelites had been burning incense to it.”  (2 Kings 18:3-4)

The bronze snake that Moses made was still there, over half of a millennium after Moses’ time. But its original purpose had long since passed. All of the people who looked at it to heal their snake bites had been dead for a long time. For the new generation, it was not helping them to look to God and worship him, or to remember what God had done for them and their ancestors; instead, it was doing the opposite, serving as a focal point for the worship of other gods.  God himself had completely disappeared from the worship that was happening at the snake.  So Hezekiah finally realized it was time to tear it down.

God does not always work among us in the same way.  God’s work in one place at one time might not work in another place and time, and God might have not intended it for that place or time.  At first, this didn’t really seem right to me.  Isn’t God constant and unchanging?  Well, yes, he is, but these two statements are not necessarily in conflict with each other.  God can still be constant and unchanging while working in different ways specific to certain times and situations.  God worked through the reformers of the 16th century to bring knowledge of the Scriptures to the common people and work against corruption in the church.  But in the USA in the 21st century, most people know how to read and have access to the Bible, and taking down the kind of corruption that churches today may see will require God working in a different way, even though the ultimate principle of turning people back to him and away from corrupt and fallen earthly institutions remains constant and unchanging.

Another example just came to me now as I was writing this.  Many people who have not studied Christianity in detail tend to think that God was so different in the Old Testament compared to what he is like in the New Testament or now.  In the Old Testament, God often told his people to make war with and destroy and kill neighboring countries.  And, as we just saw, once he sent snakes to bite those who questioned him.  How does one reconcile this with all of his commandments about love, or with Jesus’ self-sacrificial love?  The short answer is because in the time of the Old Testament, the time had not come yet for God to send his Son to Earth.  First, he had to prepare a nation through which Jesus would be born, and in order to this, he had to remove all the corrupting sinful influences from this nation… hence, the making war with neighboring countries.  God no longer tells us to make war with countries that have different beliefs, because this is a different time.  Jesus came to bring the message of salvation to all, and we can send missionaries to teach other cultures about Jesus, and we can lead by example.  God is no longer preparing a nation to give birth to the Messiah; that happened already.

This concept extends beyond the idea of Christianity, and it makes me think a lot of my struggles in trying to figure out life and adulthood.  Twenty years ago, I made friends by being involved with two college-age Christian student groups.  That was good.  Some of my closest friends over the years have come from doing that.  But that does not work anymore.  I now live in an area where most churches are geared toward families, not college students, because that is who lives here.  And very few churches have youth groups for 42-year-olds.  So I have had to look for other ways to make friends.  Nothing has changed, and I don’t have to change any of my core beliefs.  But what worked in one place at one time doesn’t always work for other places and times.

Sometimes I feel like the last one standing for God, like I am desperately hanging on to God’s truth while the world descends into chaos around me.  But maybe it’s not that black and white.  Maybe some of what I hold on to is ways that God isn’t moving in my life anymore, and maybe it is okay to let go of some of these ways without having to compromise my core beliefs.  Maybe this is what is getting in the way, why I feel like my life isn’t exactly progressing in the right direction.  But how do I know what to hold on to and what to let go of?  As always I will only know with prayer, and listening to the Holy Spirit, and knowing God’s Word.

Exit 198. It’s okay to have two hometowns.

I was born in Salinas.  Salinas is a medium-sized city in central California, by which I mean it is considered small by California standards, but if it were located in Wyoming or West Virginia, it would be the largest city in the state.  It is located 100 miles south of San Francisco and one row of hills inland from the Monterey Bay, an inlet of the Pacific Ocean.  I lived there until I was 18, the day I moved away to begin my university education, in the same house where my parents live now.

In some ways, Salinas will always be home.  That is where my memories of school take place, and that is where I spent many hours playing with Legos and Hot Wheels.  That is where I watched Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles cartoons, Full House, the 80s-90s Mickey Mouse Club, and the early seasons of the Simpsons.  That is where I spent hours in my room reading Choose Your Own Adventure books and playing the early Mario and Zelda games.

But in other ways, Salinas does not feel like home.  In addition to the memories above, many people seem to have memories of home that involve good friends, organized youth activities like Boy/Girl Scouts or sports, and first loves.  I don’t have many of those memories associated with Salinas.  I did not really have friends until I was a teenager.  There were kids in the neighborhood, but many of them only lived there for a short time, and some of them also weren’t so much friends as people who came over to play with my toys.  I went to school one town over from where I should have, as I have explained before, so until I was old enough to drive, I never saw my school friends outside of school.  My brief forays into Cub Scouts and tee ball were very forgettable, and I did not have anything resembling a first love, beyond a couple of formal school dances that I actually did go to with someone, and a few crushes that left me heartbroken, with the other person never knowing how I felt in most cases.

Yesterday was Picnic Day, a large event that I have mentioned a few other times in this blog; it is essentially an open house and community festival event at my alma mater, UC Davis.  And I realized that I have a second place that feels like home in some ways.  I lived in Davis, a university town just outside of Sacramento, from age 18 until a few weeks before age 25.  Many of those maturing experiences revolving around friendship happened to me there.  This is where I finally felt like I had a community that wanted me around.  Davis is where I came to faith, and where I finally felt like I had connections to the greater community, after I started getting involved in church activities and volunteering with the youth group.  In many ways, going to Davis and the adjacent campus also feels like going home.

I should point out that I don’t mean to put down Salinas or any of my old neighbors or school friends.  I’m just stating things the way they were.  There were some neighborhood kids and classmates who were nice to me, and I started to finally have something resembling a group of close friends by the end of high school.  I think if I had had another year or two around those friends before we all scattered for college, I would have grown a lot closer to them.

Neither Salinas or Davis feels completely like home, and neither one is home anymore.  But being both places gives me a feeling of going back home, each in its own ways.  And that’s okay.  Everyone is different.  Not everyone has one place they consider home; many people move away during childhood, for example.  And, of course, I did not experience a first love in either Salinas nor Davis.  What I would call my first true relationship, with Vega The Nice Ex, happened later during a time when I really did not have a home, but that’s another story.  For now, it’s okay to have two hometowns.

Exit 183. I learned something new.

I’ve been seeing an interesting news item that keeps coming up: Apparently, starting on January 1, gas stations in rural parts of Oregon are now allowed to offer self serve pumps.

If you don’t live in Oregon or New Jersey or haven’t spent a lot of time there, you may be wondering why this is news, or why this is even a thing.  Here’s why.  Until this week, it has been illegal to pump your own gasoline in Oregon.  (There is a similar law in New Jersey, which is why I mentioned it, but nothing else in this week’s post relates directly to New Jersey.)  Drivers in the other 48 states, which contain about 96 percent of the population of the United States, regularly use gas pumps without any major incidents or adverse effects.  But for some reason which I haven’t researched thoroughly, these two states decided that they would prefer to place the act of pumping gas in the hands of people who actually work for the gas stations.  (A quick Google search suggests that it was historically for safety reasons, since pumping gas involves working with hazardous flammable substances.)

At any rate, the Internet exploded with Oregonians complaining about the inconvenience and safety hazards of pumping their own gasoline, or  bragging about how they don’t know how to pump their own gas, and suggesting this is a job better left for trained professionals.  And the memes followed soon after this.  I can’t tell (Poe’s Law) if these are actual complaints by actual Oregonians afraid to pump their own gas or trolls mocking them.  Probably a mix of both.

There are two important points being missed here, the first of which is what the law actually says.  It says that gas stations IN RURAL COUNTIES have the OPTION of allowing self-service gasoline.  Most Oregonians do not live in the areas affected, by the definition of “rural.”  And any rural gas station can still offer the option of having an attendant pump gas.  This was the norm everywhere until the mid-20th century.  So why do self-service gas stations exist in the first place?  It costs less to not have to pay an attendant.  As automobile travel became more common, more people preferred paying less, even if it meant pumping their own gas, and full-service gas stations either went out of business or stopped offering that service, because so few people were willing to pay extra for it.  This is exactly how capitalism and the free market is supposed to work.  There is nothing stopping someone from opening a full-service gas station in one of the 48 states that allow self-service pumps, except for the fact that in most areas, they probably would not get enough customers to stay open.  It’s just like how there is nothing stopping someone from opening a video rental store or an ice block delivery service so people can keep their food cold.  They just would not get many customers in this era.

As for the second important point… story time.  The setting is a self-service gas station in Davis, California, in the fall of 1994.  I think it was the Chevron station on Anderson Road at the corner of West Covell Boulevard, across the street from Save Mart (which was Lucky at the time and was Albertson’s for a while in between).  I was 18, on my own for the first time.  A few weeks earlier, I had moved from my parents’ house into a dorm that doesn’t exist anymore on the UC Davis campus, and at the time, students who lived in undergraduate dorms were still allowed to park cars at the dorms (although it cost extra).  I needed to fill my tank for the first time, and when I got to the gas station, I realized I had no idea what to do.  I had been driving for two years, but I had never had to fill my own tank.  My family pretty much had all shared one car for much of the two years I had been driving.  On the few occasions when we needed two different cars for different family members to be in different places, we would borrow a car from either Grandma or Grandpa, who were retired and in their 70s at the time and still both had cars despite not using them all that often.  (Grandpa passed away in 2003, but Grandma is still alive at 97 and still has the same 1986 Oldsmobile Cutlass, I think, although now on its last proverbial legs.  And I might be off by a couple years on the car model year.)

The point is that I was never made responsible for filling my own tank.  Someone else would always do it for me.  Besides not having a car that was entirely my own, I also grew up in a fairly sheltered family, where I was not often forced to learn and experience new things.  I don’t remember exactly what I did that afternoon in 1994; I think I parked, found a pay phone, and called home, panicky, asking what to do.  And through some combination of listening to Mom or Dad and reading instructions, I figured it out.  I filled my own gas tank.  No one died, there was no explosion.  Instead, although I may not have realized it, I felt accomplished.  I learned something new.  And that’s part of growing up: learning new life skills, so I don’t have to have someone do everything for me forever.

So maybe those people who live in areas affected by this new law should embrace the challenge instead of complaining about it.  They get to join the other 96% of the population and learn how to do something useful.  Trust me… you’ll feel good about yourself once you do.

Now that I’ve finished writing this week’s post early, I’m going to go run some errands, one of which will be getting gas.

Exit 129. I wish you wouldn’t worry, let it be.

Friday night, I was home, doing nothing, and I broke down crying.

It wasn’t completely out of nowhere.  It happened while I had my music on shuffle, and this song came on.

If you are anti-country music and don’t want to click the link, look up the lyrics; if you’re not willing to do that, then the TL;DR version is that he is singing about all the things that he wishes he could go back and tell his teenage self.  As with many works in this genre, the general tone is along the lines of “everything will be all right, life gets better.”

And I started crying because I feel like everything is not all right, and life has not gotten better.

Now there are certainly some specific situations for which I could tell my younger self that they aren’t worth getting worked up over in the long run.  Like in elementary school, pretty much everyone, even random strangers, made fun of me and called me names, but if I could, I would tell my past self that there would come a time a decade or so later when that wouldn’t happen very often.  I can’t say it never happens anymore, every once in a while I get random jerks driving by and yelling rude harassing comments out of their car windows, but this is definitely the exception rather than the rule, and I have real friends now too.  And in high school, regarding one of the times I told a crush that I liked her and she didn’t feel the same way back, I would tell my past self that it wouldn’t have worked out anyway, because she would come out as a lesbian in her 20s.  I don’t know if that would have made me feel any better back then, but it’s true.

But, for example, the Brad Paisley song contains this lyric:

You got so much up ahead
You’ll make new friends
You should see your kids and wife
And I’d end by saying have no fear
These are nowhere near
The best years of your life

I can’t tell my past self to get over rejection by a crush because “you should see your kids and wife”… I’ve never had a wife or kids.  And sometimes high school and college do feel like the best years of my life, because life was a lot less complicated then.  I had a lot more in common with the people surrounding me simply because of my place in life as a student, and I didn’t feel like an anomaly everywhere I went.  Yes, it’s true, things may get better in the future, and I may have a wife and kids someday.  But at the time the song was written, recorded, and released, Brad was younger than I am now.  It’s easy for me to expect that it should have all happened by now.  And all of that just came washing over me like a flood on Friday night.  That is why I started crying.

The song ends like this:

I wish you wouldn’t worry, let it be
I’d say have a little faith and you’ll see
That’s what I need.  Don’t worry, let it be.  There are a lot of circumstances I can’t control, and as I’ve said many times before, I need to find ways to accept what is and make the most of it.  And there are many people who have things a lot worse than me.  Things aren’t so bad after all.

Exit 119. What do these songs have in common?

“He Stopped Loving Her Today,” by George Jones (1980)

“Touch of Grey,” by the Grateful Dead (1987)

“Kokomo,” by the Beach Boys (1988)

“Cryin’,” Aerosmith (1993)

“It Won’t Be Like This For Long,” by Darius Rucker (2008)

“Get Back Up,” TobyMac (2010)

All of them were major hits.  Kokomo went to #1, the last of four Beach Boys songs to do so.  He Stopped Loving Her Today and It Won’t Be Like This For Long were both #1 on the country chart.  Touch of Grey, while only reaching #9, was the highest charting single in the Grateful Dead’s long career.  Cryin’, while not Aerosmith’s highest charting single, did reach #1 on the rock chart, and it seemed like it was on MTV all the time my last couple years of high school, during the era when they still played music videos for at least part of the day.  And Get Back Up, while not very well known in the mainstream, went to #1 on the Christian music chart, and it was around that time when I decided that TobyMac’s solo work wasn’t all bad like I found his early albums to be.

But there is something more significant that these songs, among others, all have in common.

They were all performed by band members and/or artists who were at the time in their 40s.

I have turned 40 since I wrote my last post.  In the months leading up to this, I was feeling a bit down about approaching 40.  Typically, fortysomethings aren’t seen as young anymore.  I have friends my age who have adult children already, and I’m nowhere close to having children.  I feel out of touch both with the people around me, who tend to be a lot younger, and with people my age, who tend to have very different lifestyles, of the sort considered to be more mature.  Sometimes I feel like life is passing me by, leaving me with nothing but regrets.

But it does not have to be this way.

I don’t have to listen to anyone telling me what I should be like at this age.  I have a lot of people who care about me; my friends at my birthday party this weekend reminded me of that through their actions, as did the students and coworkers at the school where I teach on my actual birthday.  I still have a lot of life left, and more adventures to come.  And, as demonstrated by all of the musicians above, I can still accomplish great things beyond 40.  (While researching this article, I discovered that guitarist Bob Weir was only 39 when Touch of Grey was released, but I don’t think that takes away from my point, and the other four band members were in their 40s.)

Here’s to a great upcoming year.

Exit 92. Unfortunately, I can’t change him. But…

(This appears to be about sports, but if you’re one of those sportsball haters, I hope you still read it, because there’s more to this than sports.)

I just got back from the Sacramento Kings basketball game.  This team has been driving me crazy the last few weeks.  They won five games in a row, which put them in position to make the playoffs, which has not happened this late in the season since a decade ago.  Then they lost four games in a row, removing them from playoff contention for now.  Then they won tonight, even though they were without their top scorer, center DeMarcus Cousins, due to a sprained ankle.

DeMarcus Cousins was recently named to the All-Star team for the second consecutive year; last year was the first time the Kings had had an All-Star since 2004.  In one recent game (the last of the five consecutive wins), Cousins scored a career-high 48 points, then two nights later he topped that, scoring 56 points in a double-overtime loss and tying the Sacramento-era record (this is the team’s 31st season since moving to Sacramento).  Many sports writers are calling him the most talented center in the league right now.

However, there is a down side behind all that raw talent.  Cousins is known for being short-tempered.  He often is among the league leaders in technical fouls received for arguing with the officials.  He has been known to lash out in frustration, not only at officials, but sometimes at his own coaches.  Usually, however, such behavior is accompanied by an eventual apology.  Some say he is not a good team player.  Some say that he is lazy, not playing as hard as he could, and he has let himself get a little out of shape.

I feel a certain sort of camaraderie with DeMarcus Cousins, because I can be the same way sometimes.  I am also short-tempered, in a way that affects my ability to express my talents.  I have often acted in frustration and subsequently apologized.  And I have been known to start unnecessary arguments when things don’t go my way.  I don’t necessarily believe in this, but my mom would probably say that Cousins and I are so similar because we are both Leos.

I want to see Cousins succeed.  I want to see him grow up and calm down, so he can focus on being one of the world’s elite basketball players.  I want to see him play hard and shake the reputation for being lazy.  I want to see him take bad calls in stride and not lose his cool, so he can help the Kings bounce back and be a better team.

Unfortunately, I can’t change him.

But I can change myself.

I can work on my own temper.  I can avoid unnecessary arguments when I’m angry.  I can work hard at my goals and not let myself get distracted.  I’ve never met DeMarcus Cousins, and I may never meet him, and working on all these things in myself will probably not affect his play or his personal growth in any way.  But working on these things myself might help someone else, a younger friend or one of the kids I work with, before it’s too late for them.

Exit 90. Am I really qualified for that?

A few days ago, I had an observation and evaluation at work.  (This is perfectly normal; I’m not in trouble or anything.  All teachers get evaluated periodically.)  In my school district, some observations are planned in advance, and some are unscheduled.  This one was unscheduled, and I felt like it couldn’t have come at a worse time.  The day before, I had missed half the day because of a meeting, and I felt unprepared because of this.

However, the meeting with the principal afterward went well.  She had entirely good things to say about what she saw.  She also said that she could see me being a leader among teachers eventually.  I’m not sure exactly what she means, but I’m thinking either she means that she could see me being involved in more committees around the school eventually to make decisions about the school and the curriculum.  Or maybe she could see me being the department chair someday, if the current department chair steps down.  The principal also said that she would want her own children in my class someday.  I feel like this is a huge compliment.  I’ve spent enough time in difficult teaching situations feeling like I’m just barely keeping my butt out of trouble that it’s nice to hear these kinds of things from my supervisor.

Her own children are younger than the students I teach, so it is entirely possible that I may in fact have her children in my class someday.  That’s going to put a great deal of pressure on me if and when it does happen.  I’ve taught the children of coworkers several times, including twice this year, but never the children of my principal or vice principal.  But it was her other statement that really struck out in my mind, that about being a leader.  I have a really difficult time seeing myself as a leader.

This came up another time recently at work.  I was in a meeting with just four other teachers, and some of the district math coaches, to discuss some issues related to the advanced 7th grade math class.  There is only one teacher at each school in the district who teaches this, and I’m it for my school.  It felt kind of weird being at this meeting without anyone else from my school.  I was the only one there to offer specific input from my school, and I could potentially be influencing decisions without anyone else to represent my school.  I think I did fine, but it still was not a position I was used to.

This isn’t just about work.  I have a hard time seeing myself as a leader anywhere in life.  I have a hard time picturing that I might actually have a wife and children someday, like being the leader of a family isn’t something I’m capable of.  I’ve had multiple friends suggest that maybe I should deal with my difficulty in finding a church group by starting a group of my own.  This is scary.  Am I really qualified for that?  I have a lot I should probably clean up in my life, and I don’t know the Bible as well as some people I know.

Part of this is just the usual self-confidence issues that I’ve dealt with all my life.  I feel like I don’t really know what I’m doing in life.  Sometimes I feel like I’m still a scared little kid who should be doing what he is told.  I’ve experienced so much rejection, I’ve had many ideas shot down, and I’ve been neglected and ignored many times.  Because of this, I’m just used to seeing myself as insignificant.  But that is really no excuse.  I’m just selling myself short.  I shouldn’t let that kind of fear and negative self-image stop me if there is really a way I could be using my gifts to lead others.  God did not create me the way I am so that I could hide from the world.

Someone also pointed out recently that some of the best leaders are the ones who don’t necessarily think of themselves as leaders.  Many who confidently work their way into positions of leadership care more about themselves than the group they are leading, and their leadership style becomes arrogant and self-serving.  A good example of a more reluctant leader would be Moses.  God appeared to Moses in the burning bush and called him to lead the people of Israel out of their slavery in Egypt, despite the fact that Moses repeatedly told God that he would not be a good leader (Exodus, chapters 3 and 4).  I don’t know that there is an opportunity to be a leader staring me in the face right now, but maybe it’s something to think about and watch for.

After all, I have to grow up sometime.