Every once in a while, on a pizza run, I’ll catch a glimpse of a future that worries me.
It’ll be some older male customer who’s living alone, in a tiny, isolated trailer way out on the edge of our delivery range, without a vehicle to his name. Some of these guys have a way of sharing a bit much about their lives, so I know they aren’t getting any visits from people. Just alone, filling their later years with television. Some of them by choice, some of them because of past choices.
I’ll just be real vulnerable for a second: that’s a future I’m afraid of.
I often worry about ending my life alone and broke, driving people away through advanced curmudgeonry. It sounds like overthinking, but my personality does tend that direction, and I worry about it a bit. I’m putting quite a bit of effort these days into avoiding that future.
Now, your typical response might be, don’t worry, Brandon. That won’t happen.
But maybe there’s an even better response.
One of the fun parts of my second job (pizza delivery) is that you never know where the good tips will come from.
Our dispatch system works on a rotating basis. The next driver up “clocks out” on the oldest run available once it’s ready, plus a second run (a “double”) if it’s in the same area and if it won’t be too long a wait for the second order’s items to be ready themselves.
Most of the time, we have no way of knowing how much a customer plans to tip when we clock out on that run. Even with the online credit card orders in which the customer has pre-loaded a tip when they first order, the dispatch system doesn’t show it, and digging deeper into our system to view the tip would be impractical given all the other stuff we’re scrambling to do. One could do it, but so far, the honor system has worked for us. Even when we recognize an address and know they tip poorly, we take the run for the sake of avoiding workplace drama.
In this way, pizza delivery is almost a form of morally acceptable gambling! It’s a lot of fun. You don’t know whether each “pull of the lever” will stiff you or bequeath a ten-dollar jackpot of a tip, but since you’re putting in work and earning a wage regardless, it’s hardly sinful. (I know – that’s because it’s technically not gambling at all. But you get the same slight rush.)
Nevertheless, occasionally we get a driver who tries to game the system.
Losing friends hurts.
Sometimes I think that if all the energy we pour into avoiding that fact were spent elsewhere, we’d have cured world hunger by now.
The memes clutter our feeds.
“We never lose real friends, only fake ones.”
“Those who can’t handle your worst, don’t deserve your best.”
“Be yourself and the right people will gravitate towards you.”
“If they didn’t stay, they were never meant to.”
And today I found myself wondering…Who are we trying to convince?
Over the years, I’ve lost friends. I’ve lost them because someone moved. I’ve lost them because they got “too busy to call”. I’ve lost them because they married. I’ve lost them because they got married and wanted to stay friends but were female, and it was no longer appropriate. I’ve lost them because they forsook God and all the awkwardness that causes in the coffeeshop (I should have fought harder for those). I’ve lost friends simply because one of us changed, or revealed their darker side, and the other decided they didn’t like what they saw.
I’m no special case. Life winnows things away, and friends are no exception. It’s left me with a small but committed group of close friends I know I can count on, no matter how many the miles and misunderstandings. We’re in it for the long haul. I want to hurl myself into a lake with joy when I think of those people.
And sure, some people are best left in the past.
I can’t express how stoked I am. In order to convey my illustration, I have to be geeky – I have to accurately explain the nature of a black hole.
“Hole” has always been a misnomer (leading to a lot of inaccurate artists’ renderings over the years, corrected only recently for the mainstream in 2014’s Interstellar). A black hole is an exotic star, one collapsed so far and grown so dense that its gravity out to a certain spherical distance is strong enough to restrain all light emanating from it. Since an object is only seen by the light it reflects to your eyeballs, that spherical region of a black hole appears, well, black to the outside observer. The star itself is still inside, but forever hidden from view because its light can’t reach you.*
For a long time, I was a black hole. Sucking everything in, emitting very little. God was slowly working on my strength, changing me from the inside, but it was a process.
Then, a few years ago, I chanced into a dating relationship. We had a good five months together before she called it off. That’s okay. It happens. (She’s engaged now.) But it was a revealing time for me. I got a chance to see how such companionship affected me, what it brought out, what it exposed.
Amongst the discoveries was this: while we dated, I started taking risks I hadn’t taken before. I found a greater enthusiasm for people, asking how they were, hearing their stories. And later, after the relationship ended, I found myself tempted to revert to my usual introversion. After some self-reflection, I realized why.
Graduation is upon you.
What a relief. To be freed from the hallways of the high school you’ve learned to hate and launched upon the world full of possibility. Just to be celebrated is a great feeling. Goodness knows we don’t get enough of that these days. Everyone is flying in from across the country just to attend your party, churches are holding banquets in your honor, and all of it is wonderful. It’s your moment in the sun. Bask.
The graduation speeches are exciting. Live your dreams. Reach for the stars. Realize yourself and your potential. Don’t let anyone tell you who you are or what you can’t do. Perhaps there is some truth there.
But we have a few problems here.
Humility requires me to speak respectfully, even in awe, when it comes to motherhood. I have not yet been a parent, and I will never be a mother.
But I have learned this, mothers, thanks to my years in youth ministry: you have regrets. No matter how well your children have turned out, as they cross the stage and flip their tassels, all smiles with relief, you think of their flaws (as if there weren’t supposed to be any) and long to have some days back. Even when I’m thinking, amazed, “Are you kidding? I’ve known your kid for years. They’re awesome!”
The longing is legitimately greater in some mothers. But the mammoth task of motherhood is bound to leave holes. A mother can find the tiniest flaw in her own mother-work, as surely as she can spot a speck of dust on a table.
I want to encourage today. Yet I will never been a mother. I speak better than I know.
But I have been a child.
And I can say this with great certainty to many mothers: your children are probably thinking far better of you than you are.
I hate my brokenness.
I want it to end.
It’s been a tough week at work. The kind that leaves you feeling like a rusting wreck in the desert. Ever found yourself dreading going to work and finding out what little mistake is coming back to bite you this day? You’re breathing, so yes.
I know my weaknesses well. We’re old acquaintances. Not friends, though. I want them out of my life.
Tonight, though, I have to deal with the fact that they’re not conquered yet, that tomorrow hasn’t come yet, that the next opportunity to win hasn’t come yet. I have to deal with the shame and inadequacy that swarm toward this vulnerable chump like flies toward a carcass.
I’m reminded of a familiar saying.
God does not call the qualified; he qualifies the called.
But…there’s a but in my heart.