Wednesday, April 8, 2015

A Cautionary Tale

Twenty five years ago I was introduced to one of the most charismatic men I had ever seen. He was older than I was, more successful, more confident, even cockier than me. He had a beautiful wife, beautiful children and lived in a gorgeous house in an exclusive neighborhood. In short, he was practically everything that a young, struggling guy like me wanted to be.

Not only was the guy a wildly successful businessman, he was also something of a motivational speaker. Pam and I heard him speak a couple of times and loved it. I was quite mesmerized. Although we never became close friends, he remained for years someone who I held in high regard.

Then, the bloom began to come off of the rose. I began to notice an arrogance in him, a fondness for the spotlight, and most disturbing to me…an unsettling tendency towards business shortcuts. Suddenly, his company transferred him, and just as fast as he had burst onto the scene of my life, he was gone. I’ve never seen or heard from him since.

With the advent of social media, old friends never truly disappear. So over a decade later I learned of his divorce. The man with the perfect marriage, perfect wife and perfect children had left his wife. Part of me was profoundly disappointed, even grieved that a marriage that I had exalted so high in my imagination was over. The cynical side of me wasn’t surprised. Of course it was too good to be true. No couple could possibly be that deliriously happy all of the time, of course.

Now, I learn an even darker truth. I am stunned by the news. How could it have gone so wrong? How could I not have picked up on the epic level of his hypocrisy? I normally pride myself on being able to detect phoniness. My BS detector doesn’t usually fail me. Maybe as a 28 year old man, I wanted it to be true so bad that I was blinded. I wanted desperately to believe that his happy, prosperous life was attainable. In my mind, I had placed him in a trophy case as proof positive that living a Godly life in this world would bring with it rewards in the here and now, not just the hereafter.

Of course, as a 28 year old man, the sum total of things that I didn’t know would have filled an encyclopedia. I should never have exalted another human being in that way. We are all sinners, capable of anything. Still, I think about all the twenty year olds out there who look to me as an example of what they want to be. They too want a successful career, a nice house, a beautiful wife. I suddenly feel the heat of that spotlight.  I feel a heavy burden to never disappoint them the way he disappointed me. If I succeed it will be because of God’s grace.