After sleeping like a baby for a month, I've awaken about 3 AM several times this week. I seem to always wake up in the middle of a cold-anxious-sweat. Sometimes the underlying trigger is clear and sometimes it is obtuse. It was clear early this morning.
Last night I had my first "movie night" were we view and discuss provocative movies. Last night was Revolutionary Road. It was a success. Six people, all from my church, came and we had a lively discussion for a good hour.
As I tossed out questions and listened intently to the answers, in my eyes at least, I saw a quick pattern developing. It was my perspective vs the rest of the group. By the time the night was over, it was clear to me (which is the usual case) that I was on a different page and I look very nonspiritual compared to everyone else.
Then, I awaken in the middle of the night having that haunting, lonely feeling like I was in my bivouac on the far side of the moon . . . cut off from the rest of humanity. I didn't just feel like I was on a different page, but residing in a different universe. But I know that emotions and fears call always be skewed . . . seriously so . . . in the middle of the night. I always put myself in the "John Nash" mode (the schizophrenic from A Beautiful Mind) of asking, "Are you (my perspective) real?"
I eventually fell back to sleep. I ran it by Denise this morning (who only made the very end of the discussion because she was in the ER with my son, who broke his foot just as the movie night was starting). She didn't see any issue. But she also didn't catch the two men from church, a few months ago, saying that there is no way you can be a true Christian and believe in an old universe, right after I said I did.
I do feel better but I will lay out the difference in our perspectives and why I feel so alone.
First, a brief synopsis of the movie. It is the 1950s. Frank and April get married and move to suburban America where Frank has to take the commuter train into NYC each day to work a meaningless job (his perspective). He falls into the typical businessman routine including sexual liaisons with one of his secretaries. He and April though, are seeming to be the idealize American family, raising two kids (while serious issues are developing between them). Then they both have an excitement about leaving the rat race, moving to Paris for a personal adventure. That dream is crushed when Franks gets a promotion and April gets pregnant. April is emotionally devastated when the dream fails.
Here is how my perspective and those of the group last night were so different.
The 1950s. The author of the book, Richard Yates, said himself about Revolutionary Road;
I think I meant it more as an indictment of American life in the 1950s. Because during the Fifties there was a general lust for conformity all over this country, by no means only in the suburbs — a kind of blind, desperate clinging to safety and security at any price.
So, my perspective is that the movie rings true to what I know of the 50s and I agree with Yates. I was born in the middle of that decade. But from what I know, I see the materialistic, plastic society within my own family and town. I grew up in the Bible belt but within that belt, everyone aspired to; have personal wealth and appear to have harmony on the surface. Yet, I know many illegitimate children sired by these good Baptist businessmen during the 50s, such as my own uncle. I also remember suicides, closet alcoholics and other dark secrets.
Everyone else in the group agreed with the notion that the media falsely portrays the 50s in a negative light. The pastor mentioned that the peak of church attendance was 1951. No one else in the group admitted any dark family secrets from the fifties as I did. They all said that their families were in harmony and loving and no one had any closet secrets.
But Francis Schaeffer calls the fifties the age of "affluence and personal peace." What he meant by "personal peace" is keeping the facade of harmony and avoiding conflict (on the surface) at all cost.
So, was only MY family and my family's acquaintances messed up during the 50s? It so seems.
Work. The whole group (with me the sole exception) had the perspective that employment is a calling from God. That if you have the right Christian perspective, then work is a great joy. Everyone who spoke to this question admitted that they have this joy about work. One man said that before he was a Christian, that he hated work but now he loves it. He added that retirement is not a Biblical concept and that we should love work until the end.
My perspective (which I didn't share last night for lack of time, and wanting to give others the time to talk) is that work is part of the curse of Adam's fall. We toil. We sweat and most of the time it isn't fun. Not to say that your attitude doesn't count. I mean, there are days I hate the thoughts of going to work. But I do try and keep as positive perspective as I can. There are parts I honestly enjoy.
But in all honestly, if I won 10 million dollars, I would quit work tomorrow. I do see my work as part of my ministry and my part of brining redemption to a broken world but that doesn't blunt the fact that it totally drains the life out of me and I despise it at times. At least three times a week I have to pull over on the highway during my commute home because I am so mentally exhausted that I can't drive safely. The honest truth is that I go to work because I have to go to work because I have to earn money to pay for food, the mortgage and college tuition for my kids.
I did share that my son's (Tyler-22) group says that they never want to fall into the rat race of work that they saw their parents in. That they would rather be dirt poor. A comment was made that if that is true then Tyler must not have seen the Biblical perspective towards work during his growing up (meaning my example I guess).
I was the only one who seems to feel any burden to work.
Dreams and Aspirations. April and Frank had the dream of moving to Paris. Frank, later changed his mind. But this took the life out of April. I personally sided with April on this issue. I really think that Frank sold out to the buck and they would have been much happier if they had followed their dreams.
The consensus of the group is that dreams are a farce. That God wants us to be content exactly where we are in life. That if we look to dreams to bring us happiness, rather than Christ, that we will never find happiness.
But I have a very different view. I see us made in the image of God and part of that image is to be dreamers and explorers. Being content exactly where we are is not a fruit of the spirit in my book.
I love where I live but it came as the result of a dream. All the good in my life came as the result of a dream bearing fruit. I still have dreams. I dream of being a writer, of living on the coast of Italy, of climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro, of learning to sail, of floating down the Amazon and I could on and on. But when I spoke of those dreams, my view was really frowned upon.
About six years ago we were sitting around the dinner table with our kids. Tyler (16 at the time) had just read a book about a man sailing around the world. He asked me, "Dad, why don't we sail around the world?"
I answered, "I would love to."
Tyler, "Are you serious?"
Me, "I'm dead serous. I would quit my job, sell our house, buy a big sail boat and take off."
Tyler, "Then us do it!."
Me, "Ask you mom."
Denise then rolled her eyes and gave about 10 decent, smart, practical reasons why it would be impossible. They included, my daughter having to quit the volleyball team, the loss of my income and the retirement money, taking the kids out of public school thus reducing their chances for college, that I (Mike) don't know how to sail and that there would be no place to plant a garden. I am confident that everyone in the group last night would agree with her totally. Probably everyone on the face of the earth but me. But I envision myself on my death bed in my 80s. I seriously doubt if I will be thinking, "Boy am I glad we didn't sell the house and sail around the world back in 2004." No, if anything, I think I will feel the regret of not doing so.
So, while everyone in the group last night says that dreams and aspirations are signs of discontentment, not one person lives in the town where they were born. You can't move without being carried on the back of some dream, no matter how simple it is.
So, I'm left today thinking where did I go wrong. Am I an alien in this entire world? But I do hear voices that seem to share my perspective at times. Yates saw the same fifties that I did. There must be Christians who believe in dreams. I know there are humans who believe in dreams.
I have to go but I hope to be back to proof read this. Sorry for any typos as I had to type fast, eat a muffin with one hand and sip coffee with the other.