Dale Kuehne and I have been life-long friends. We were raised in the southwest corner of the city of Minneapolis. We attended school together, we ran on the cross-country team together and we attended the same church. After high school, Dale went on to Wheaton College and I went to Moody Bible Institute. We got together a few times during our first year of college but after that, our paths went separate ways. Dale ended up spending many years in higher education, eventually obtaining a Ph.D. and becoming a pastor and a college professor. Meanwhile I bounced around to a few different colleges and never did obtain a degree. In 1983 I got hired as an air traffic controller and worked in Denver, St. Louis and Phoenix. Dale and I had stayed in touch and while in St. Louis I found out he was teaching in Kansas City. I traveled to Kansas City to spend a day with him back in ’89 or ’90. We had a good time reminiscing and catching up on each other’s lives. That was the last time I have seen Dale. Over the years our contact has diminished, but we remain friends.
by Dale Kuehne
It’s not easy to be me.
That was the theme of the pity party I was having on the train from London to Cambridge.
I suppose being jet-lagged had something to do with it.
And that I had a headache.
It could have been the fact that the train was completely full of sweaty people who had just run the London Marathon.
Or that there was a guy in my vicinity playing his iPod so loudly I could hear the songs despite not wearing his earpiece.
But I think I would have been depressed had I been alone on the train, because I was very much alone in my thoughts. Consumed in myself.
The conversation I was having went somewhat along these lines.
I’m about to turn 53 and the world is looking a lot differently to me.
I once believed I’d make a difference in the world. A real difference.
I got a Ph.D. and became a Reverend because I wanted to make a difference.
I’d be the person who could turn things around.
Help bring more peace and justice to the world.
My thoughts were interrupted by the woman in front of me weeping and cursing while on her cell phone.
But I soon returned to myself.
I thought I’d be the person who could give people the tools to avoid the relational fractures that are so difficult to heal.
Or heal the wounds they bear.
But the world seems worse now than when I started.
The wars and economic turmoil are not going away anytime soon.
Neither is the relational fracturing.
And then my meditation took a more inward turn.
I can’t even save myself.
My body’s not going to improve. It’s going to take more work to make the best of what I‘ve got, and truth be told, given my lack of self-discipline that’s not likely to happen.
And what are the long-term implications of taking medication to deal with high blood pressure, gout, the aftershock of cancer, the lingering effects of whiplash from a car accident two decades earlier, etc.?
I’ve lived as though there were no effects of childhood sexual abuse, but there are. They are with me whether I choose to look at them or not.
It was at this point that I got stuck. Facing up to the fact that I can’t defy the laws of physics any more than my fellow human beings became the quicksand of the moment. My thoughts had become a funeral for my dreams.
I was succumbing to self-pity, quite willingly. The path of least resistance has much appeal when your dreams are dying.
Then something unusual happened. I began to ponder something I have never before seriously considered. I began to wonder about the status of my retirement fund and what I might do if the college offered my early retirement.
As my ruminations over retirement continued, my subconscious began listening to the music from the iPod one row over.
Every time I look in the mirror
All these lines on my face getting clearer
The past is gone
It goes by, like dusk to dawn
Isn’t that the way
Everybody’s got their dues in life to pay
Thinking of early retirement scared me. Partly because being the typical American, I can’t afford it. So I decided to close my eyes and pray.
My father who is in heaven
Holy is your name.
Your kingdom come
Your will be done
On Earth like it is in Heaven
Yeah, I know nobody knows
where it comes and where it goes
I know it’s everybody’s sin
You got to lose to know how to win
Give me this day my daily bread
And please forgive my debts
As I forgive the debts of others.
Half my life
is in books’ written pages
Lived and learned from fools and
You know it’s true
All the things come back to you
Lead me not into temptation
But deliver me from evil
For yours is the Kingdom,
The Glory forever.
As I said Amen I came out of myself and was once again present in the train. The sweat, the smell, and the weeping caught my attention as did the last lyric of Aerosmith’s Dream On coming from the iPod.
Sing with me, sing for the year
Sing for the laughter, sing for the tears
Sing with me, if it’s just for today
Maybe tomorrow, the good lord will take you away
Those words captured my soul.
They lifted me up.
I felt strength, I felt vitality, I felt love, and I felt joy.
Once again I became lost to those around me. But instead of losing myself in pity, I was dreaming again. My soul was singing. I felt hope again. This is not my world. These are not my battles. I believe in love, and more importantly love believes in me. I believe in Easter.
I’m not sure this is what Steven Tyler had in mind when he wrote these lyrics, but as we pulled into Cambridge I said a prayer of thanksgiving.
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