I have a confession to make. I get a bit intimidated when I meet people who are younger than I am and are more successful than I am. Yup, there you have it. I will often meet someone younger than I am that has an amazing career, their own home, their own family, etc. Feelings of inadequacy will often creep in and I will feel like an epic failure.
As you may already know, I was a late bloomer. I started Kindergarten at the age of 6 instead of the typical age of 5. Therefore I was the oldest in my class. I was the oldest, but you would have never guessed it because I was behind on so many levels, especially socially. My classmates in many ways were light years ahead of me. Everything came so easily to them whereas I always felt like everything was a challenge. Even, my own older siblings reached all their miles stones before I ever did. I often felt quite defeated being the youngest child since both of my sisters were always such tough acts to follow. I always thought that in time I would catch up with everybody and have my glory day when I could say: “At last, I have gotten further in life than expected.”
There is an old Italian proverb that goes like this:
Chi va piano va sano e va lontano. Chi va forte va alla morte!
This translate to:
The one who goes slow, goes safely thus far. The one who goes fast will die.
I often repeat this proverb to myself when I find myself falling behind in life. It reminds me of the story of the Tortoise and the Hare. The hare was quick, but he was overly confident and fell asleep during his race against the tortoise. As a result, the tortoise crossed the finish line first. The story encourages one to believe that everything adds up in the end. As you can guess, I truly identify with the tortoise because I move through life quite slowly.
Now, don’t get me wrong, I would not say that my entire life has been a complete failure. Sure, it took me a bit longer than most to achieve things, but I got there eventually. I may not have had numerous successes in my life like my contemporaries, but the successes that I have had, I attribute to the Lord. For example, it is because of God that I stuck with music for most of my life. Ironically, it was actually more difficult to quit making music than to continue doing so. If that is not divine intervention, I don’t know what is. Furthermore, I believe that God wanted me to be a musician to bring people closer to Him. There is something about the arts that can take one to a new world of discovery.
So how does a tortoise like myself experience and view the world. Well, when you move at a slow steady pace in life, you are better able to understand the world in a different way. I have learned a lot by watching others pass by. Let’s just say that as a tortoise you have time to think a lot because it takes long for you to reach your true destination. If you are wondering where I am going, don’t ask. I don’t really know. I am just trying to follow where the Lord leads me, but often times it’s not very clear to me if I am actually following Him.
I often strive to live my life with as much detachment from the world as possible, focusing as much as I can on the wonderful living creations that God made. I have found that attachment to man-made things has been the root cause of much of my own suffering in life. 1 John 2: 15-17 states
Do not love the world or the things in the world. The love of the Father is not in those who love the world; for all that is in the world—the desire of the flesh, the desire of the eyes, the pride in riches—comes not from the Father but from the world. And the world and its desire are passing away, but those who do the will of God live forever.
I try to live life keeping my eyes toward God and heaven, but all too often I fall and become distracted with things of the world. I see the many hares speeding by me and I think to myself, “Aw man, they are so far ahead of me.” They are certainly doing great things and receiving recognition.
It is very easy to view success through the eyes of the world when it comes at you from every angle. Our culture is filled with celebrities who flaunt their wealth and talk about their million dollar contracts. I am surrounded by people who are advancing in their careers or maybe even the founder and president of their own business. All around me I hear of people buying houses, getting promoted, making more money, getting married, having children, etc. These things are obviously not bad in themselves. In fact these are good things. However, it seems that we celebrate what a person gains rather than what a person gives. If a person has a spouse and children, they are viewed as successful compared to the single person who tries to make a difference in his or own community. A person who has their own home is viewed as successful compared to the person who lives with parents or other family members. A person who makes $120,000 a year is viewed as more successful than the person who makes a fraction of that, and a person is who is loved by the world is viewed as more successful than a person who is after God’s heart.
Since a young age, I was unintentionally taught that to gain is to be successful. If you get good grades in school you are successful. If you make friends you are considered successful and the more friends the better. I can still remember my Sweet 16. It consisted of me and two friends, not a real sweet sixteen like both my older sisters had. My oldest sister had 35 friends at her party. My other sister had 75. Because of my lack of friends, I felt rather pathetic and had no desire to even think of having a Sweet 16 party. However my two friends took it upon themselves to throw me a little surprise party to celebrate my 16th birthday.
Once I entered the work force the notion became this: the more money you earn, the more successful you are. If you have people working under you, you are even more successful. Then, there is the relationship status. When people hear you are single, they think there must something wrong with you. In my case, people either thought I was gay or entering religious life. I must confess that even in my own family I often feel inadequate because I am the only child of my parents who is not married with children. I just have two birds that most people could care less about.
Because of both my sisters and their marriages, my parents have grandchildren. I have not added to the family at all unless you count my two 13 year old birds, but it is not the same obviously. About a year ago, I recall a woman speaking to another woman about her children: “They are all married, thank God.” Hearing that remark was quite hurtful to me. If that is what makes a child successful in their parents’ eyes then I must be a huge disappointment to mine. Not only am I not married, but I am totally fine without ever getting married. My biggest focus in life is getting with God and improving my spiritual life. I believe that God is the only source of true happiness and success. To love and live in relationship with God is to gain everything. To the world I may appear to not have much, but in my heart of hearts I know I am very rich.
The one thing that the tortoise had in the story that I wish I had was self confidence. Despite being ridiculed by the hare for his slowness, he still maintained focus on the goal. He accepted himself as he was and possessed much wisdom and mental strength. How I wish I could be like that. If there is anything I wish God to give me, I wish to gain is the wisdom and mental strength that the tortoise possessed in that story. Perhaps someday, I will experience such a moment. I sure hope so, but perhaps the greatest moment that I can wish to experience is that moment I leave this world and come face to face with almighty God. How I wish to cross that finish line and enter into Heaven with Him for all eternity, and as I enter that wonderful kingdom of pure love and bliss, how awesome it would be to hear our Lord say something like: “Well done my good and faithful daughter. Welcome home!”