Two weeks ago I posted some initial thoughts on my “50 Days / 50 Faces” project and was blessed by many affirmations from various people, people who could identify with the idea of “disconnecting” and “being aware” of others. It was great. Thank you to those who took the time to read and respond.
Since that posting, truth has once more revealed itself. This time however, it didn’t use the face of a stranger.
Goals, ambitions, and projects are great. They keep us moving forward, they encourage growth, inspire change, and, hopefully, create a better Us and a better world.
But they also distract.
My goal of 50 Days / 50 Faces was (and still is) filled to the brim with great intentions: to unplug and see the people around me. Each day, for the first eighteen days, it forced me to get out, to meet strangers, and to get outside my comfort zone. And it was great. Not only where my eyes opened to the kindness of my fellow people, I also got to hang out with some pretty cool cats.
But with every stranger I sought, strife hid in the shadows. I needed to repent but I didn’t, because I didn’t know I needed to. I kept my eyes straight ahead, in search of the next new face, never turning around. Never repenting.
Then my wife.
Josey is gorgeous, physically for sure, but much more so internally. She is patient, forgiving, kind, loving, and many more flattering adjectives. She is also intensely relational. Above all else, she sees and chooses people. No matter what.
Which is why she had to sit me down a few days ago and ask me to turn around.
When I first started the 50 Days / 50 Faces project, she was extremely supportive and
encouraging. She would carve out time on the weekend for me to go for a quick walk so I could, “find a foreigner,” and when I would come back almost two hours later, she held no judgment. Even on the weekdays when we stayed out late with friends and our kids were tired and crabby, she would let me walk so I could find my “face of the day” while she taxied the kids home and put them to bed, alone. She was extremely supportive.
Until it was no longer right to do so.
“You’re so focused on meeting people and working on your project that you’re no longer here with us, with me.” She wasn’t angry, she was worried. And she was right. I wasn’t there with my family, and I wasn’t there in the worst kind of way.
On the night I first posted some thoughts on “50 Days / 50 Faces,” I was out meeting Eugene and Tony. When I got home, around 9:30, I kissed her on the cheek and instantly got to work, “I just gotta post this real quick,” and threw myself on the coach. An hour or so later, she went to bed. A half hour after that, I did too.
I wasn’t even aware that she was hurt by my by my absence because I wasn’t aware. I was so focused on my project, on seeing people around me and following the rabbit trails that they might reveal and sharing my thoughts on a stupid blog that I didn’t even see those closest to me.
I was in the living room with them, eating dinner with them, and tucking some of them into bed, but my mind was on far off thoughts. I was disengaged, present, but not there.
My project was calling me forward, but I needed to turn around and see those walking with me.
I still believe in my project, perhaps more than ever because I believe humans are also full of fantastic stories, and I want to hear them and connect with them.
Stories like Kris Rubesh who owns and operates the Zhilam Hostel in KangDing, China. His driver’s license is from Portland, Oregon, but that means very little to him because he spent most of his childhood in Sri Lanka where he once swam and chatted with a young Harrison Ford when in town for the filming of Indiana Jones: The Temple of Doom. “Steven Spielburg was there too,” he says with a grin, “but I wasn’t allowed near him because he was surrounded by a bunch of girls in small bikinis.” He laughs and takes my breakfast order.
People are truly fascinating. They are full of hope, laughter, pain, and depth, and I want to be much more aware of them, but not at the expense of those I already know, I already love, and already find fully intriguing. I’m not done with this project or any other project that will soon come along, but nor am I done investigating the mysterious of my wife, the wonder of my kids, and the depths of my friends.
My projects need to supplement my life, not guide it.
Unknown faces lead to unknown places. Familiar faces lead to home.