Recently, I had the opportunity to share some of my heretofore deeply personal “stuff” with a very, very dear brother. This brother and I had entered into a natural accountability relationship over the course of the past year. He knows a lot about the now me that he sees and has seen, but he has known little about the before Joe, that other Joe, the real past Joe. Thus, the sharing. I felt that if anything, he needed to know where I was coming from so that together we could enjoy the journey to where I’m going. Further, he simply needed to know about all of me, and thus not have to assume anything.
It was cleansing for me to share decades of my stuff. It was cathartic. I don’t hold onto any shame, remorse, guilt, embarrassment, anger, over my past stuff because it is all just that–past stuff. It doesn’t define who I am today, nor does it control me. I no longer want to hide any of it, simply because that stuff’s not me….not the Joe of today. While it was cleansing and cathartic, it also served as a testimony…not just of what my past was, but the journey I have taken to get where I am today, a journey which was certainly not easy at times.
One of the most revealing things about that sharing, and it was something that struck me deeply, was that the recipient of my stuff instantly seemed to regard it as a gift–a true gift. It was, in fact, given as a gift–a very personal gift. I gave him all of me. We each knew, and it went unstated, that the gift was both given and received because of, and out of, two of perhaps the most difficult things for men to give or receive–trust and love.
As we sat and talked, not so much about the stuff itself, but it’s value, both to self and others, we both seemed to come to the conclusion that something like that truly is a gift, one that can keep on giving. That gift covers a lot of pages in my book of life. Since I am writing the later chapters of that book as I traverse, this, my winter years, those pages can be important. There are many younger men out there who are in the early to middle stages of writing their Life’s book. They don’t know what can lie ahead of them, what might lie ahead of them, what is lying ahead of them, and what will lie ahead of them. What my friend and I know is that much of what lies ahead of them can, and some will, catch them off guard and leave them wondering where the curve ball that walloped them came from–the one they never saw coming. Some of those curve balls are going to sting. And the problem is, most of them are things not talked about as our life’s books are being written. Often, the subjects are just big elephants in the room that all can see, but that all ignore.
So, the stuff, which was a gift, can also be a never-ending gift in the form of unabashed sharing as a means of drawing attention or focus to the end game, the goal for each of us–living the best Christlike life we can as we travel this journey. Sharing stuff as a gift, and not as a war story, holds value, carries weight, and has meaning. Sharing stuff as a war story has a lot of hot air which runs out quickly and loses value and meaning to all concerned. There are men who need to receive the gift of stuff–yours and mine. That gift may just ensure that the pages of their life’s book may just make for a more pleasant read.