I felt my heart flood my chest. It was pensive like a morning mystic, irritated like your nicotine-hungry boss. Something about the movie Lincoln set its 18-year streak careening out of control into a rapid succession of skips and throbs.
Nelson Hall 2013. Two months before my birthday. Lincoln was a good man, and I never knew if my dad was. He also led the nation out of civil war. I wanted to lead the nation out of civil war, too, if by it you mean I wanted to be great.
A year earlier, I took a walk with a man I don't know anything about. I shot my hands around. My voice was loud as I told him I wanted to be the greatest gospel giver of a generation. I wanted the religion & spirituality podcast throne.
And even a year earlier, I took a walk with another man I didn't know anything about. My hands were hushed, and my voice was throaty. I didn't tell him about the tears, but I did tell him I forgave him. We have the same last name. Snow was melting that day.
I closed the door with a basket full of hot laundry. I put headphones in. Between folding undies and low-key rap music, I couldn't shake Lincoln out of my mind. And though God knocks, I think he sometimes doesn't have decency to wait until I finish folding the socks.
I paced the room, barefoot and athletic shorts and a white V-neck. I ran my fingers through my hair like there was an answer stuck there. I weaved through worksheets and dirty laundry. I punched my mattress, which wasn't a very nice thing but felt needed at the time. Three things became real clear.
It came real clear that my forefathers might have been great, yet I wouldn't know it. They might have led new railroad projects, sat atop company food chains, or been the best something of their generation. I do know when they die in a Lazy-Boy with a beer in hand. I do know how their kids bolted like farm cats when they got home. I do know the phantom father hunger they leave in their tracks.
It came real clear, too, that I couldn't control greatness. It comes and goes. Lincoln failed a thousand times before, and he sure didn't become president by much. And your grandkids don't care what thrones you sit atop if you won't learn how to look them in the eye and hold 'em when they cry.
It also came clear I could control goodness. I could learn from the man from Galilee. Even if I didn't inherit a good script, I could copy Jesus.
It would take lots of time. But I could learn to speak of nouns like salvation and adoption. I could learn to give forgiveness with a throaty voice. I could learn to ask for forgiveness even when I had good reasons.
I could learn to look in the eye and just admire. I could learn to hold aches in my heart like they were mine, or even just smile at people in the grocery store. I could learn to love inconvenient people, even when they are me. I could turn heart skips and heart wrenches and heart somersaults to prayer.
I could learn, to0, that goodness takes care of any greatness worth losing sleep about.