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Suits and Damages March 28, 2014

Posted by michaelnjohns in Uncategorized.
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“My wife is leaving me,” said my dad to his friends. All of them were surprised as he had been married for a long time. They all gathered around to show their support. And then he said, “Yup, she’s going on vacation, and taking the kids with her.” (insert comedic drum beat) I grew up and learned his comedic timing, although I know I’m not as funny as I’d like to think I am. I wonder if my dad knows, sometimes he’s not either.

When speakers speak, I often wonder how fragile their souls are. Where are the dings in their armor, where are the gaping wounds of their hearts that they have bravely covered? Will they show us a battle scar? How close are they to breakdown? When I speak, I am keenly aware that I am damaged and very, very fragile. But other speakers, I admire, as they set aside their personal fears, their stage fright, and press on with their messages. Even pastors. They put on a suit jacket and slacks, or jeans if the atmosphere is casual, and they put their best face forward to the audience to deliver a message to encourage, to teach, to admonish. And they themselves are looking in a mirror as they speak, viewing their own damaged lives as if they were naked. No one else can see them like that, but inside I bet they feel the frailty, the exposure, the cracks in their veneer.

How do you speak to a crowd of people, or even one other person, when you know that every time you open your mouth you give them a view of your failures and your heart? How do you speak to others, knowing the message you’re offering is mostly a pep talk you wish someone would give you?

Today I went to a breakfast meeting and I heard a speaker. He was given 30 minutes to speak. He presented about 15 minutes of information, after prefacing with about five minutes of jokes. I think the joke is often like a gambler’s tell, that gives away the secrets about the scars hidden inside. If that is the case with my dad, how fragile must he have feared his marriage was? Our speaker today was a lawyer who told jokes about his life and his career to break the ice. One of his jokes was that although he was happily married, he had been through so many marriages he couldn’t count any more. Then he added, that he had been officiating over the other couple’s weddings.

It’s not very funny that life is very hard and we all have uphill battles to fight. I think everyone has tried to dig their heels into whatever ground they could find, only to feel themselves sliding slowly downhill. Or maybe that’s just my own journey of life at the present time. It’s not very funny that marriages are fragile, about half ending in divorce, leaving broken ex-husbands and ex-wives and children with weak roots. They bravely may joke about their ex-es, but the painful scar or wound is still hurting there under that tell.

There are so many situational comedy TV shows about relationships, from the early years of Burns and Allen, The Honeymooners, I Dream of Genie and Bewitched, to the more modern and more broken Friends, How I Met Your Mother, and Two and a Half Men. Even the animated The Flintstones, Jetsons, and the more modern The Simpsons and Family Guy milk the comedy from the brokenness of relationships and how we muddle through.

I think some of us do a better job than others of hiding our tells, and some of us, thankfully, aren’t clued in well enough to look for them. I think we are all damaged goods in some ways, and we all have to muddle through. If my wife owes me one apology for something in our relationship, I owe her a thousand. If my kids owe me an apology for some minor infraction, I owe them for not being a better life-model.

I pray that God forgives me for all of it, but more than that I pray He helps me to heal, so maybe the scars I’m acutely aware of, and the gaping wounds I’m more aware of can turn into better life lessons I can share when I am older, wiser, and more weathered. The season has been harsh and my hull is battered and scarred and in need of serious repair. Some things I can hide behind jokes, others I won’t even talk about any more because they just hurt.

My wife is leaving me. After more than 20 years of marriage. She and the kids are going on spring break to see grandma and grandpa and some aunts and uncles and cousins. (insert comedic drum beat) She should be back late next week. And if my wife and kids decide not to forgive me for my failings, after today, I know a good lawyer.

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