I used to think it was my grandmother who turned me into a writer but now I know it was my father.
My father, though he doesn’t always say a lot of words, is the most vocal of men when it comes to action steps. He uses his hands. He shows up. He helps anyone and everyone who needs it. “Showing up” has become a buzzword. I’ve used it so much that I am sometimes want to cut off both my hands so that my fingers can never type it again until they truly, truly know what it means. I’m not an expert in showing up— I am simply trying to get better by texting back, knocking on people’s front doors with wine glasses in my free hand, and choosing not to walk away.
Growing up, I could not be more embarrassed by my father. I was 12 years old and my father was a garbage man. I remember waiting for the day when he would wake up, roll over, put on a suit, and go to work. It never happened. But I remember lying to the kids in school about his occupation. Though he picked up their trash, and we all knew it, I still told them that his stint as a garbage man was a hobby, something he chose to do before going to work with a briefcase.
Now the man’s body is riddled and plagued and weathered by the years of hanging his lean body off the back of a truck and lifting heavy garbage bins into the open mouth of a trash bag chomping monster machine. Some days he doesn’t get out of bed because his body is so tired.
It’s getting to that point, probably closer than ever, where I might meet a man and we might spend a lifetime fighting for one another. I’m not sure. I’m on mission— wholly devoted to this writing career God gave me— and so I stay focused on that, above all things.
But when it comes to finding someone to be with, I am looking for my father. In the crowds of people. In the man across the table who pulls the debit card from his back pocket and pays the bill. I am looking for my father.
I am looking for a man who knows and understands the weight of work and provision. The year is 2015 and I meet a lot of people who are more focused on their brand than their character. They’re more focused on my brand than my character (which is even scarier).
It scares me to think that we would rather say the right thing, and get a few “likes,” than to invest in being a better and bigger person off the screen.
Do not get me wrong, I love people of the internet. I have eaten with them. Drank cocktails with them. Prayed about them. Gone to parties with them and moved to new cities for them. But I have also seen the ugly side of social media that I think we don’t look at often enough: you can fool the world and pretend to be someone you’re not. You can get so good at upholding a false image of yourself that you never actually advance in the things that matter: humility, integrity, honesty, commitment.
I don’t want to be a faker. I just want to be a hard worker.
While I look at the men who pay the tabs at dinner, I am not just looking for my father— I am hellbent on becoming him. I am becoming a person who doesn’t need to highlight the work she does, she simply does the work because it has been handed to her. Even though I have devoted the better part of my 20s to a workaholic spirit, there is still the possibility that I could slip and lose the vision. If you lose the vision, you lose direction. This world needs leaders who are confident in their direction, not aimlessly looking for the next ladder rung to get them higher.
Trust me, I have wasted time. I have a wasted a lot of time on the things of life that don’t actually matter. I’ve eaten pride like casserole. I’ve loved myself and hated myself a little too much. I should have been studying or cooking or writing or creating but instead I was scrolling through social media accounts to see who had gotten ahead of me. My heart was being vandalized by bitterness, jealousy, and resentment but it was too dark to call them out by name.
I have wrestled to get off the phone. I have found watching the lives of other people to be easier than facing my own junk. But no one is going to clear out your own emptiness. When your dreams go unfulfilled because you didn’t start the work, the world won’t even know how to be heartbroken by the loss of things that would have made them better people. That’s the thing about the things you don’t do: you carry the loss.
You decide to either follow after what matters most to you or you follow other people. You either build people up or tear them down in your heart because you think they’re getting what you deserved and wanted. You build a Hunger Games arena in your brain and, as a result, you can’t stop hiding in the trees.
I don’t want to hear God say, “You cared more about following people than me. You were supposed to feed the others, not follow them.”
So here’s my honest prayer as I lift my hands to the ceiling on a Sunday and try to trust him for than I did on Saturday. You can steal it if you want. I am always down for stolen prayers:
God, make me a worker. Make me a worker who is so focused on the calling that there be no time for comparison or competition or false humility. Make me the one who bends her head towards the desk and just gives herself to the process, not the praise.
Keep me faithful. Keep me honest. Keep me real. Chip away what doesn’t help me get closer to the others.
Make me fall so hard in love with this work that I fail to see the ones who’d like to see me fall.
Make me so faithful to the direction I am going in that my life won’t be a good story but rather a map that others could use to find you for real.