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And So I Became: The 'Wanna Be' Why
About once every three months on Sunday afternoon, my dad lined the children of our church up on the platform to ask them what they wanted to be when they grew up. It was one of my special times that I paid keen attention because each time he would question them their ‘wanna be’ would sometimes change, or would be new ones I had not heard before—and it was enjoyable to hear their voices amplified by the great mike system we had. I listened especially as my father grilled the older ones on why they wanted to be such and so, and what they thought it would 'cost' them to make it so. As they sang their hopeful songs with words I sometimes didn't know, I got ideas; and those ideas added dimensions forever to my soul.
So, when I turned five years old, I was included in the line for the first time. And by then I had collected quite a few 'wanna be' peoples. There I stood, with the other 12, twenty-five adult steps from the church stained windows, facing west toward the sunset which now vibrated the colors of the glass with warm 'christian shine'. The older ones answered into the microphone: doctor, lawyer, etc...and when questioned, why they wanted to be that type of person, they spoke forthrightly like older kids, using many words. This they knew would bring sighs and smiles from those sitting in the pews. Then he microphoned the 5 year olds and they answered: doctor, lawyer, nurse, policeman…when he came to me, I raised my chin and spoke in a teacher's loudness, "When I grow up, I want to be a man."
A muzz of expressions followed and I heard some snickering; I even saw some faces with gapes at the bottom. I guess being the youngest of the fivers, and the last person to job interview, my father just never asked for my 'why', and I was denied the time to expelliate from my collection of data. With that, he presented to the congregation Tacoma, Washington's 'future of America’. And as he acclaimed us, and as the subsequent applause and praises rang from the pews, that muzz of a misunderstanding- problem still waved over my little mind.
Thirty years later, just two years before my dad's final heart attack, we were talking, one to the other one, over some theological reference. His face shined favor and love back to my face as we kindly reparteed with joy from our well of good words. We would even mix into our conversation other philosophical behaviors of mankind in general: politics. Then it appeared, following a pause that had made its way into the room. My dad's eyes started to bounce back and forth, then he smiled rather big as he told me that he had from time to time gone back to what I had said that day. He went on to explain his slight embarrassment when the en mass chuckling had erupted (the muzz) —wherein, the audience had thought my 'wanna be' was naïve humorous baby-babble coming from the novice. But it wasn't that which he wanted to comment on; no, it was about his change of opinion, for, year by year, he saw me becoming, in the strength of my words, more and more like the manly men which he had preached about all his years; saw that I was, by choice and by purpose, trying to keep to the pattern of what those mighty biblical giants were about. To him, my life demonstrated what I had truly meant, and that I did have an idea of what I was saying. He told me that of all his eight children I was the one who had become what they had announced, and that he was proud of me.
It was a simple desire, a common one that didn’t require a college degree: Samuel had none, Elijah had none—Martha, Peter, and Mary had none…and Jesus. It was a growable want that required only diligent observations of other beings in sight, and many quiet thought-sessions: ‘alone with cosmic eggs, being terse.’ And spread out in between these moments were the trials, mistakes, and love-joys of varying kinds—plus the not-forgetting to keep God in the mix. This was not too dissimilar, at all, to what is read about the biographical men of the Bible, who grew up to be humans not just of power, but of domain during the time of their youth; during the time of adversity; during their time of listening to the God who made them. These where the same ‘everythings I needed to know’ which I learned from my dad’s sermons while I was still in kindergarten: that these she-and-he heroes were not just doing the actions of men: doctors, mothers, lawyers, goliath killers, prophets, leaders, lambs —they were 'being' those things, whether they had gone through the schools of the Pharisees or not.
It was then, at five—after hearing my father sing-out the details about these great heroes in between great sweat-wiping pauses— that I came to realize that the being part was the most desirable part. So, that day, in front of all those people, that part had become my 'wanna be' why.
As with all children, my first coming into being came when the breath of life entered into me before I was born, before I became one of the many Samuels that have published a write-out into the world. This Sam, like all children, has spent time in the smallest room of humanity, after which, to become a man-child delivered from the life of a woman. Even though I cannot remember whose hands under-cradled my nakedness when it was my time to be scissored and swaddled away, this man-child has kept desire of life in the sight of a father’s favor; and this wanted child, God and Jesus willing, still wants to grow up and be a man.