I'm not sure what grade school was like for you. Like most children, I sort of assume you never had a childhood of your own. I do remember a few vague stories about nuns, but those could very well be from television shows. Sometimes the two blend together.
At any rate, in my grade school, teachers and principals and other adult figures were always saying things like "Follow your dreams!" and "Reach for the stars! You might just land on the moon!" Or maybe that was from the cheesy posters that every teacher has on their walls. Something else I don't remember.
Well anyway, I took those teachers and their posters seriously. I acted like they meant it. They didn't actually mean it, of course. Sure they hoped for it; they hoped all the little children in their class would land on the moon someday. But hoping for some thing is very different than really meaning that thing, meaning it with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind.
Christ said that about loving God. If you say you love him - and you really mean it - you'll love him with all your heart-soul-strength-mind. I like to think it's significant that mind is last in this list. (It's not actually significant, that's just what I like to think. Strength is last in Mark's gospel.) My mind is the thing least able to love. It's fickle and tricksy, precious, it's split into too many Jekylls and Hydes.
But my heart and soul and strength, those things are much bigger, much slower ships. It takes a long time for the rudder to change their direction, to set them on the right course. So the route they take means more. The mind is like a flag, blowing this way and that in the wind. But the soul is the ship beneath the flag, and if you set the sails right, it'll keeping heading in roughly the same direction no matter how the wind is blowing. You may have to row sometimes, of course, if you're in the doldrums, and that's where your heart and strength start to matter.
Have I lost the thread of this metaphor yet? My point is that I took these teachers seriously, with my heart-soul-strength-mind, and set myself on a course for the moon. But I was rather stupid, you know, and ill informed as well. Nobody really told me how difficult it was to get there, how many test rockets had to crash and burn before I'd be able to build a really good, solid, reliable rocket, one that wouldn't crash in the ocean or blow up in my face or spin around on the ground with sparks shooting out of its butt like some kind of cheap firework.
I think a lot of people are happy enough to live on the ground, to set their feet in the earth and raise children, enjoy summer baseball and fall football and do something kind every day. But I think that population is much smaller than we like to believe. I think there's a lot of people out there, right now, who still hear the teachers and their posters, whispering in their ears about the wonder of the stars.
But space is scary as well as beautiful. One screw-up and you'll come crashing back down to earth, or end up floating in the cold darkness. The good part is that we're not alone. People are nice. They'll send you a jet pack, or catch you on something soft, like a high jump mat or a giant marshmallow. And then you'll think, "Wow, my rockets might not get to the moon, but they'd be great for toasting this giant marshmallow." And little kids will come from all over the world to get a piece of delicious, enormous, perfectly toasted marshmallow, and you'll lick your sticky fingers and feel like you did something nice and awesome, all at the same time.
I want that for everyone, you know? One of the first things I ask people when I get to know them is whether they are happy with their jobs, if there's a star or marshmallow somewhere in the distance that they've got their eye on. Because, if so, I want to help them, with encouragement if nothing else. But I have a harder time telling them about how hard it's going to be too. How life is going to be frustrating for a while. How their ship takes time to swing around and head in a new direction, especially when the current is against you.
Sometimes I wonder whether you reached for the stars, Mom. Or whether Dad did. I don't know. I hope so. But I'm too tangled up in the situation to really tell. Maybe you're one of those people who's happy to be exactly where you are, though probably there's a whole unlived life somewhere in the back of your mind, the way there is mine. The way there is in most people.
There's a mouse pad sitting next to me that has a quote from Saint Francis of Assisi: "I have done what was mine to do; may Christ teach you what you are to do." I like that quote. It uses small, simple words. I pray that for myself and for you and Dad and our whole family and the whole church and every non-believer out there. Whether he wants us to land on the moon or toast giant marshmallows, let's do it with heart-soul-strength-mind. Let's mean it.
With love always,
Your son Jordan
Jordan Jeffers writes letters to his mother on the Internet because stamps are a form of witchcraft. Feel free to give him electronic encouragement via the little Facebook and Twitter buttons below. Peace.