I don’t sleep a lot. No, I’m not sick. I don’t have insomnia. There are no “things” going bad in my life that keep me up stuck in worry and stress. It just doesn’t take a lot of sleep to keep me going.
What I do when I don’t sleep much at night is think. I think a lot. I think about family, about grandchildren, and about growing old, It’s easy to think about growing old — I am old.
Thinking has become highly underrated. I find myself so busy today, my life seems fuller than ever with “stuff” that keeps me from thinking. My iPhone seems to never stop dinging with voicemails, emails, texts, Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter notifications. Add to that the IOS upgrades, app upgrades, and calendar notifications, and I find myself sometimes too busy to think.
But in the last few years — since having my 60th and now 65th birthdays — I’ve learned to welcome thinking that keeps me from sleeping. It’s been a gift that even though it’s been a part of my life all along, I have simply missed it. Maybe I missed it because of being so busy, so preoccupied, so torn by dealing with “stuff.” But, no matter, I’ve simply really missed it. And missing it has cost me a bunch of years.
At some point during the last decade or so, lightning struck me with the realization that more of my life is behind me than is in front of me. Funny how that realization changes the way we think. No doubt, my past has been really good to me. But obviously, that’s no guarantee of what’s ahead. And if I am caught in projecting what’s left of my life based on my life up until this point, I could just stop thinking and coast along, knowing things are going to be pretty good. Because things HAVE been pretty good.
No matter what the gurus of positive thinking say — like making things happen by being positive, rejecting negative thoughts, always claiming the glass is half-full, rejecting superstition, and reaping what we sow — at some point I’ve simply got to stop planning and worrying and let thinking take over.
And I think I’m just about there.
At 65 it’s kind of late for me to fret and worry about all the mistakes I’ve made. Sure, every mistake has made an impact on the course of my life. That’s part of living and growing and making a life. That’s the way it’s supposed to be. And some of those mistakes have cost me dearly. I’d have loved to be able to brush those all away, but sometimes mistakes just happen. But I’ve learned to deal with them: think them through and learn from them all.
My old friend Andrae Crouch wrote a song titled “Through it All.” It’s one of the best songs ever written. It contains what has been the most impactful line of any song I’ve ever heard: “If I never had a problem I’d never know that God could solve them, I’d never know what faith in God can do.” I think Andrae was in his early 30’s when he penned that. But he sure nailed what thinking through and making choices in life is really all about.
During my “mid-life crisis,” (I guess that’s why I don’t sleep much) there is no way I could have survived without having the assurance that when I got to the end of that ordinarily traumatic period of my life, things would really be OK. And they are. In fact, things are not just OK, they’re pretty darn good.
Will you indulge me for just a few minutes? I’d like to — while I’m not asleep and thinking at 3:56 AM today — analyze those “pretty darn good” things:
- I’ve got good health. Yes, there’s a heart attack in the mix, removal of two kidneys (don’t go bonkers — I was born with 3), two heart stints, both thumbs now have artificial thumb joints, and there were a handful of minor surgeries. But I’ve lost over 100 pounds in the last 5 years — the right way: eating right and daily pretty aggressive exercise. In fact, I’m back at my college weight — and maintaining it!
- I’ve had a good marriage, although in no way a perfect one. Ours has in fact imitated what life is all about: being happy, having problems, working through problems, and being happy again. Thank God there’s been a bunch of “happy again’s!”
- I’ve started 4 companies in my life, the latest turned out pretty good.
- We have 3 wonderful children — now all grown. All are married, doing well, and have given us 6 amazing grandchildren. I learned quickly that grandchildren are much more fun than children were, although I loved fathering our amazing 3. We spoil the grandchildren rotten by always saying “Yes.” Then we send them home!
- On the bad side of a parental divorce — when I just knew my life at 16 was pretty much permanently trashed — God moved me 200 miles north and into a family that through the last 50+ years have proven to me again and again that family and relationships are what life is really all about. And family is the model with which God put in place His perfect plan for us to use to “make it.”
Along the way at very strategic moments, I’ve met very specific people who each made major impacts on my life. The first was Sister Green who taught Children’s Church which I attended in Lafayette, Louisiana. Sister Green had somewhere in her life captured the reality of relationship with God. She masterfully simplified that process so that a 5-year-old little Cajun boy could understand who God is and how to have a relationship with God Himself. She was simply amazing.
Rodger Robinson befriended me as my high school freshman Speech teacher. He walked on crutches because of polio at a young age. But you forgot about any handicap there because of the way he lived his life for and with others. He never saw me as just a 14-year-old kid. He saw something in me that I didn’t know was there. Without telling me what he was doing while he was doing it, he put me on a path toward success that molded my life with readiness for all of the hills and valleys that lay ahead. And when the hills came, I adjusted almost automatically. I did the same when the valleys came. Rodger taught me how to lower the mountaintops a bit and to make the valleys shallower than they really were by just rejecting that old success killer: “Somebody owes me something.” He taught me to simply push through, put the bad stuff behind and keep walking.
Rodney and Francis Duron opened their home and hearts to a 16-year-old boy who had lost a big chunk of confidence in his parent’s nasty divorce. When I moved in, they moved all-in with their love and lives. Though never formally adopted, I was always treated as a true son — and still am. Dad Duron went to Heaven 6 years ago after giving his life away every day he breathed. He was the epitome of giving one’s life to others. He loved people — everybody. He pastored the entire city of Shreveport, Louisiana. And his life showed just that. At his wake, mourners lined up for 4 hours to pay their respects to the most honest, God-fearing, committed-to-others man I’ve ever known. It was fitting he met Jesus on March 16th — “3-16:” “For God so loved the World He gave His only son that whoever believed in Him would not experience eternal death but have life forever.” That’s from John 3:16. Dad Duron shared that with people every day.
Their only son and my brother, Denny Duron, too took me in too. For 50+ years he has loved me, poured his life into mine, shared literally everything in his life with me, including his family, friends, contacts, resources, and his magnanimous giftings. I’ve never known anyone like him and probably never will. He just took what Mom and Dad Duron lived and expanded it to a larger group of people. I am proud to say he’s a world-changer and teaches all those around him what a personal relationship with God and other people does for you. He’s no different than everyone else in this respect: he has been hurt, taken advantage of, disappointed, fought some health issues, while having a glorious life in high school, college, and professional football, and as the founder of one of the most successful high school football programs in the nation. All the while, he has pastored the finest church in America — Shreveport Community Church — fulfilling what his father did HIS entire life: show people in Shreveport and around the World that God really cares. Denny loves everybody! And I get to live in that amazing environment daily.
As I sit and write this, I realized something: I’ve been guilty in that during a large part of my life I have taken the good things that happened to me for granted. I guess that in my “thinking cycle” that dawned on me. I’ve made a bunch of choices: some good, some bad. But in every choice, no matter good or bad, I’ve come through each feeling stronger on the back side for going through them. The good choice results are obvious. Unfortunately the bad choice results are too.
Here’s my conclusion: I don’t know of anyone in history that didn’t face hurt, betrayal, abuse of many kinds, and personal loss. I know of many who let some or all of those wrongs destroy them. But I know of some who took them in stride using the results of THOSE things to seed the ground in their lives to become good.
Farmers have it figured out: when they plant soybeans, soybeans are going to grow. It makes no difference if they didn’t have soybean seed to plant and put pumpkin seeds in the ground, nothing those farmers do will make soybeans grow. They “harvest what they plant.” Realization of that “God” fundamental has really impacted my thinking. I’m not concentrating on those bad seeds I’ve planted that have grown into bad stuff. Sure, I dealt with the bad fruit that grew. There’s no way around that. But I’ve planted far more good seeds — some of which have already been harvested, some still in the ground. But I’m ecstatic that almost ALL the seeds that have been planted in my life by me and others I have already seen their fruit, and the products of the other seeds are on the way.
Oh… and “The Best Is Yet to Come.” (Pastor Rodney Duron)
I Can’t Wait!