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Dear Garrison, I am just

February 20, 2006 |

Dear Garrison,
I am just wondering.... How do you reconcile the religious mores of your past with your present life? You joke about the distrust of success and fame ingrained into mid-western Protestants (thou shalt not exalt thyself above thy given station in life), but now you are famous and enjoy a successful career. What does your mother think of this? Your old schoolmates and/or church members? Are you the black sheep among those from your past?

I ask because as a Protestant American, I am constantly reminded to be 'realistic' and not to 'dream'. Failing is to teach me to trust in God, not my own abilities, and success is to give the credit to God and not become self-sufficient. Dreams are met with a myriad of possible hang-ups and gender roles are fixed. For example, when I planned to sail the seas or be a whitewater rafting guide for a summer, I heard, "That's a man's job." My sister who entered a firefighting program heard the same thing.

How does one transition from an old world mindset to the American culture where one is expected to dream the impossible, ask for a raise, go for the gold, try anyway, and never give up?

Did you face any of this and how did it turn out?

Sincerely,
Elizabeth

Those are large questions, Elizabeth, and I have to come down on the side of freedom and boldness, though my life doesn't necessarily demonstrate that. I've lived pretty cautiously most of the time. But when I was young, it struck me how many Christians I knew who were unhappy, especially with their work, and got little joy out of daily life, and their joylessness seemed terribly sad. I didn't want to live that way. I am a black sheep, of course, as are we all --- all have gone astray ---- but work is a blessing, not a curse, and Scripture makes it clear that we are to use our abilities as fully as we can. That doesn't necessarily mean dreaming the "impossible" or going for the gold, but surely it means to seek happiness and fulfillment in work. You don't need to transition into this ---- you just insist on making the best life you can, and then do it. How did mine turn out? I don't know yet. But I love doing my work every week and that is a blessing.

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