It happened before I realized it was happening. I pulled into the driveway, looked over, and I saw the garage door was open.
I sighed, and said to myself, “I’ll freaking close it, geez. I have to do everything around here.”
Then, as I walked over to do “everything,” I saw something else. The Powerwheel was sitting there, half parked in the garage, half out.
I got even more upset. I gave the thing a half-hearted kick and shove, then yanked the door down. Angry, I walked into the house…
“Christ looked at this screwed up world, turned to the Father and asked, ‘How can I help?’ And God looked at him and said, ‘Are you sure? Because you may not like what you have to do.'” – Andy Stanley
When I walked in, I slammed my keys a little too hard onto the rack, and I tossed my wallet on the refrigerator a little too hard. I made sure my face was good and screwed up so my wife would ask me what was wrong, and sure enough, she bit.
“Travis, what’s wrong? You look mad.”
“Alright, which one is this?”
“This one is Travis Sloat, sin number 4,555,291. He looks at his wife and says something really dumb. Something he shouldn’t say at all.”
“And I’m going to die for that?”
“In order for this to work, you have to.”
“Alright, done. What next?”
“Sin number 4,555,292: he uses several curse words while watching Duke play.”
“He’s kind of an idiot, but man I love him.”
I opened my mouth.
“I’d like it if I didn’t have to be the one that closes the garage door all the time. And the freaking Powerwheel was sticking out of it. Why can’t you at least check that before I have to do it?”
The very second I closed my mouth I knew they were dumb. I realized how stupid it all was. I realized, that if I owned my piece of the pie, the reason I was mad was because all I wanted to do was come home and not be bothered by trivial stuff…like my kids…my kids and their stuff.
But I couldn’t just back out of it. I needed to own that stupidity. I couldn’t just have said, “You know what, I’m an idiot, and I’m sorry.”
Now, sitting here, I realize something. There are people out there that would LOVE to have the opportunity to put their kids’ toys away. They would love to come home, see something laying out, shake their heads and say, “Those crazy kids.”
“This is for Travis, and sin number 4,555,291. This is for Travis, sin number 4,555,291. I love him. That’s why I’m here. That’s why they’re beating me. That’s why these thorns are on my head. This is for Travis, because I love him, even though he’s an idiot, and even though he’s not always thankful for what I’ve given him. This is for Travis, sin number 4,555,292…”
“Travis, I’m sorry, I’ll start making sure they put their stuff up and the door is closed.”
What? What? This isn’t what I wanted. I WANTED A FIGHT. I WANTED YELLING AND LOUD NOISES AND TRIVIAL THINGS TO BE BROUGHT UP. I DON’T WANT APOLOGIES.
|“I think I ate your chocolate squirrel.”|
I didn’t want an apology because the second the words were out of her mouth, I realized what an absolute idiot I was. I realized that she loves me enough to try and fix something that isn’t even her fault.
And I couldn’t even find the ability to say “I forgive you.” Not because of pride, not because of anything other than the fact that I AM SO STUPID, and THIS IS SO STUPID, and WHY ARE YOU MAKING HER APOLOGIZE FOR THIS YOU JACKASS. It’s like saying the words “I forgive you,” would have been even worse than what I said in the first place.
“Oh I forgive you because you spent all afternoon filling out paperwork for something incredibly important AFTER you spent all day molding young minds and AFTER you fixed dinner you might have wanted to just take a break instead of closing the garage door.”
Right. That would have made it better.
And I’m the one sitting here now, remembering the blog I posted LESS THAN A WEEK AGO, about how I’m working on things, and here I am taking two steps forward, telling the world (the six folks who read this blog) about how I’m making progress, and then, BAM, three steps back.
|What my “progress” feels like most days.|
And I could just have easily not typed this, not written this up, and not left it here for those six people to see. But I can’t do that. This is what you need to know about me. Because I’m sure there are others out there who struggle like I do, and who need to be reminded that it’s an uphill struggle, but we do have hope.
“So what happens to Travis after a lifetime of imperfection?”
“Well, he’ll be forgiven because he accepted our gift.”
“Just like that? There won’t be a giant scale weighing out his good and bad that ultimately determines where he’ll spend eternity?”
“Nope. Just you, standing in the gap between the real and the ideal.”
“That sounds fantastic. He’ll never make it on his own. Let’s do this thing.”
From Sunday, August 26:
Today was a bad day.
I didn’t get enough sleep last night, and I woke up tired.
I looked at an article I had published in the paper this morning and I saw that they had “edited” in a typo. It bothered me.
We rushed to get to church on time as usual. We got to church, sat down, and listened to our pastor preach about death.
He talked about what was more tragic; the sudden loss of a young lady in a car wreck, or the loss of a old woman who hasn’t been in good health for a while. I’ve experienced both in the last eight months. You’d think I’d be qualified to make that decision, but I’m not. I have no idea which was more tragic.
Of course after thinking about that, I thought about dad. I thought about how much he’s missed. From there it didn’t take long for me to start blaming God for the fact that our children will never meet him. To them, Brian Sloat is myth, a legend, no more real than anyone else that they’ve never met. And after that, I contemplated my own mortality.
I’m afraid of death. It terrifies me. As a Christian, death is the ultimate reward. You are absent from the body and present with Christ. So why am I scared to die? What scares me about being with Jesus? Some would say that I have doubts. Doubts about my salvation, doubts about my faith, and doubts about my beliefs. Our pastor said I shouldn’t be afraid of death.
The Sunday School lesson we had talked about affairs. It talked about how easy they were to fall into, and how it is always a good idea to end them and tough out your marriage. It reminded me of the pile of crap I turned into for a year and half. Most of our class knows what I did. My mind played for me a constant stream of their judgement, what they would really say if they could.
Our kids didn’t get a nap today, and so they were terrible. When we were in the store, they acted out, climbed on shelving, and were just generally ill-behaved. I had to yell at them several times. I had to threaten to spank them repeatedly.
We were in Tulsa traffic today. It was so humid you felt like you were swimming through the air instead of walking. We waited over an hour for a table at the restaurant. I was sweating everywhere we went. I snapped at Alicia. I was sulky and petulant for most of the afternoon.
Today was a good day.
I woke up this morning. The Lord gave me another day.
I got to see an article that I wrote in the paper. I’m a writer. I am living my dream.
We got in one of the two cars we own and drove to church. We walked in the doors of the building without anyone trying to kill us for what we believed, and we listened to a sermon that taught me some things.
I got the chance to remember two very special people in my life. I remembered how they blessed me. How they both lived passionate lives before they were taken from me. I remembered the impact that they had on the lives around them, and how truthfully, they are both so much happier now.
I remembered dad today. I thought about the things that he’d say to our kids. I thought about how he’d hug them, squeeze them, and I thought about how that tough old Brian Sloat would probably be transformed into a giant softy by the introduction of his three grandkids. I found myself thinking about how I need to take them to see his grave, make him more real to them. Maybe soon.
I will not continue to be afraid of death. I will die. When I die, I will leave many people in this world, but I will be reunited with my father, my grandmother, a few uncles, an aunt, and Kambrin. I will not continue to be afraid of death.
I got to watch my newly saved and baptized daughter take the Lord’s Supper. I got to see her eat the cracker and drink the grape juice, even ignoring my own so I could sneak a little peek at her. I thought about where she might be without us. I got to thank God for them both.
The Sunday School lesson talked about love. It talked about how even sure-footed people can fall into traps. It talked about how coming clean is always the best policy. It reminded me of my wife’s forgiveness. It reminded me of why I fell in love with her in the first place. It reminded me that maybe I need to wash a few more dishes this next week, just to show her that I love her.
I got to spend a solid day with our kids. I don’t get to see them during the week, and I spent all day with them today. No naps, no real separation, and no breaks. They were active. They were joyful. They enjoyed being alive and playing when and where they could. There was a time when they couldn’t do that.
We hung out with some amazing friends today. We ate lunch at one of my favorite restaurants, and we laughed and fellowshipped the entire time. I was hot and sweaty, but I was walking. When I snapped at Alicia, she shrugged it off, knowing I was in a mood.
Today was a bad day. Today was a good day.
If the truth was told, most of my days are like this, and so are most of yours. We all take the good and bad, and at the end of the day weigh them on the scales of our temperament, and we draw our conclusions on whether the day was “good” or “bad.”
There is a story making the rounds on Facebook that I love. It explains the situation perfectly. According to the Internet, it’s an old Cherokee legend.
An old Cherokee is teaching his grandson about life. “A fight is going on inside me,” he said to the boy.
“It is a terrible fight and it is between two wolves. One is evil – he is anger, envy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, and ego.”
He continued, “The other is good – he is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion, and faith. The same fight is going on inside you – and inside every other person, too.”
The grandson thought about it for a minute and then asked his grandfather, “Which wolf will win?”
The old Cherokee simply replied, “The one you feed.”
I will make every effort to feed the good wolf from this day forward. The evil wolf will continue to fight, for that is what he does best. I will be tempted with negative thoughts, pity-parties, and bad attitudes. I’ll have days where I want to be pissy and lame.
But I’ll try. I’ll give the good wolf Milk-Bones and organic, veterinarian-approved dog food. I’ll give him clean water every day and take him in for regularly scheduled vaccinations. I’ll brush his fur once a week and tell him that he is the best wolf a guy could ever ask for, and “Who’s a good boy? Who’s a good boy? Is it you? Yes it’s you.”
And maybe, just maybe…I’ll shake this nasty writer’s block and get back to blogging about things.