Sometime in the last quarter year, I noticed an interesting looking guy living in the gigantic spread of apartments I call home. This guy seemed always to be hanging out by his car, smoking and chatting with passersby. It didn’t matter what time of day or whatever day of the week – if I was out and in a position to see his parking place, there was as good a chance as not that I would see him there. That constancy was notable in and of itself. His whole physical presentation was striking and added another layer of interest to it all. He was exclusively partial to blue jeans and white, short-sleeved, button-down shirts. The white shirts matched his white car. All of this added up to the obvious conclusion: “There’s an interesting story there.” Then I would drive or walk on my way, depending.
A couple of days after re-acquainting myself with the 2013 journal, I was driving over to Upper Room for the early-morning prayer set. In the predawn blackness I groaned inwardly and maybe outwardly at the consequences that defined my existence that morning.
You: Here. Now. Me: No plans; no expectations.
I turned right, onto the road that dead ends into the office park where our church is located. It’s a nondescript road in a warehouse district by the Trinity River. There’s one cross-street before the end of that road that allows for an optional and winding backdoor approach to the church property. Every time I’ve driven to church in the past thirteen months, I’ve passed the cross street both coming and going. On some trips I’ve even taken the cross street and its alternate route to the church. Which means I’ve seen the street sign with the name of that street well over a hundred times. Until that morning in early February and with a gun to my head, I couldn’t have told you the name of that street. Which is pretty weird; I’m usually aware of street names, especially with regard to streets I see regularly. But it wasn’t until 0550 that morning that I actually noticed the street name:
Double take and No way. Farrington. I was only familiar with one other instance of Farrington in my life: Richard Farrington and his crew were killed when the B-24 Black Cat was shot down over Regensberg in April 1945. It was the Farrington crew featured in the book Wings of Morning, which book I’d read in December and had so many parallels to my own life. “Farrington? Right here, all this time?” And by all this time, of course I meant, “Since this street was developed and named long before I was born and possibly even before Richard Farrington died in a German field seventy-two years ago; and since I’ve been driving past it for over a year now, without noticing the street name; and since six weeks ago, when my life story developed a strange parallel to those of a man named Farrington and his crew who had died so close to the end of a struggle?”
All of this before the sun even thought of coming up.
I continued on down the road and wound my way into the parking lot. It wasn’t until the following week that I realized I’d never be able to go to that building again without passing a reminder of Richard Farrington and how he died so close to the end of his war.
Three days later at the end of our morning church service, the pastor called the ministry team to the front and invited the congregation to come forward for prayers. I went down front and got in line. I was actually in the queue of people who were waiting for our pastor to pray for them. After I’d waited for about ten minutes, Michael finished praying for the final couple ahead of me. I stepped forward and we greeted each other. Michael began praying for me. He told me that he believed that, due to some things that had happened to me, God was going to turn me into a spiritual handyman. “You can fix anything…you can fix anything,” he asserted with his eyes closed. He went on to thank God that I was such a good father. Then he got really emphatic. “Thank you for making him a defender, God. You made him a defender! You made him a defender!” That was the meat of the ministry time. It’s always nice to be called out as a good father. But the handyman and defender references were most significant for purposes of this timeline.
In the umpteen-hundred thousand words that I’ve put into this blog over the past three years, I haven’t mentioned my desire to be a capable handyman in the physical world. I want to know how to skillfully and effortlessly use any tool you can show me, to build or fix anything I can imagine. But I was raised in a fairly and unfortunately typical environment where all emphasis was “go to high school, go to college, get a job”, with little attention paid to any day-to-day practical skills. I graduated both high school and college without having any such skills to my name.
I didn’t care anything about that stuff when I was younger. If anything I was intimidated behind an invisible wall of confusion about numbers and abstractions that still frustrates me in my highly number-centric and abstract work today. Beyond that personal limitation, no one who could have mentored me into such skills did so. Both of my grandfathers were respective wizards in their own right, when it came to manual craftsmanship. My dad was a hotrodder when he was young, and before a certain eventual evolution in technology, he could tear down and rebuild car engines. Somehow, almost none of that expertise made down into Generation Me.
As I aged I slowly grew into the realization that I actually had the aptitude to be no less adept and creative as my father and grandfathers with a set of tools. And along with that understanding, I discovered that I had an innate and profound desire to create, build, and repair. I wanted little so much as to be able to use all the sturdy tools that were in my grandfather’s garage. But I couldn’t have told you what fifty percent of them were for. With any passing year I was that much angrier in the realization that I had been perfectly made to be an auto mechanic or carpenter or plumber or the like; but that I had been raised in a demographic that would have slit its collective wrist before encouraging one of its own to pursue something like a blue-collar trade.
I got the preordained college degree and embarked on the years-long grind of having a job; mostly as a data technology jack-of-all-trades, with an emphasis on networking. The work is all boundlessly complex and largely done inside one’s head. Your hands are involved in the work, in as much as tapping keys on a keyboard and moving a computer mouse is “work”. It’s a strange existence where, at the end of any given day, one can be completely drained from the difficulty of designing a process or figuring out a solution – all while your body has done effectively nothing but peck away at a keyboard (if you’re reading this blog, you might have a similar job). And the work is never really done.
With construction trades and the like (and especially being a chef – my latest “I coulda” discovery) the work might have a certain level of complexity; but there are physical limitations to that complexity. And the environment doesn’t change dramatically, year over year. Plumbing is and always will be about gravity and water. Wood is wood, and wood-working tools do not fail in planned obsolescence like so much of the high tech world. A job well done is sitting right in front of you at the end of the day or project. It is possible for a plumber or chef or auto mechanic or heavy equipment operator or welder to build on experience year after year, with little fear that some huge portion of his collected knowledge and skill will become obsolete at any time. “AS OF THREE WEEKS FROM TODAY, GARLIC WILL NO LONGER TASTE LIKE GARLIC. IT WILL TASTE LIKE ASPARAGUS, SORT OF.” By comparison the wrangling of invisible bits and bytes, in an environment that evolves daily, is wildly frustrating and unsatisfying.
I got married and became a home-mortgage payer, which presented me with endless opportunities to either learn how to “do” or to pay someone else to “do” for me. I learned a lot, and I got into a nice rhythm of doing a lot. Youtube was fantastic mentor. I even became a volunteer with Habitat for Humanity, where I learned a ton of great stuff over a year or so. I looked at Habitat as 1) an opportunity to bless some people in life as I had been blessed in life – beyond any base physical needs into relative comfort and security; and 2) to learn as much as I could about carpentry and home construction/repair that I didn’t already know. By the end of a few months of volunteering, I was already able to apply my newfound skills around the house. The result was that I saved myself the expense of hiring someone to do certain jobs for me; and I got the immense satisfaction of being able to look at a job well done and know that I had done it. Things were looking up, in regards to the hands-on side of me.
Then my employer required that I get a tech certification in order to justify my existence. I spent one entire year either in class or studying at home, except for the summer months when I was on the road for my job. I had to give up Habitat for that year. Within two months of my classes ending, my wife and I separated. I eventually ended up in an apartment where they pay the handyman to “do” for me. Habitat and home repair are memories in my life that now has no room for giving up entire Saturdays to build houses or work in the shop. My life circumstance dictate there’s little room for any wild and radical career moves. And I just chalk it all up as one more reason to be relieved with every passing day that this life is not the end of the road.
When Michael prophesied, then, that I would become a spiritual handyman, able to fix anything, it resonated in a foundational way. Imagine being able to fix anything, with spiritual gifts from the real Creator. Healing the sick; raising the dead; routing demons; all in the name of the Savior and by the power of the Holy Spirit. Even the most skilled and successful blue-collar tradesman eventually retires and dies. His work might live on for some years after him in this life; but what’s that to him, considering he’s dead? Being a spiritual handyman would mean one’s work would live on in eternity, through lives that were transformed and faith that was made stronger. Passive verb tenses abound.
Becoming a spiritual handyman sounded, frankly, too good to be true, that Sunday in early February. Michael and I aren’t personally close; and I don’t know who knows what or thinks they know what about me at Upper Room. I wondered if Michael was working off of old (if prophetic) impressions of me, formed before the December 2016 meltdown. I immediately discounted the handyman thing as lost potential, yet another in-my-face presentation of what could have been. Anyway, even as I was discounting something that was otherwise perfectly appealing, Michael had already moved on to the emphatic declaration that God had made me a defender. Now THAT seemed realistic in early February. I was mere days – not really even too many hours – removed from both discovering Farrington by the church and rediscovering my 2013 dream journal. If the handyman prophecy felt like wishful thinking that morning, the defender label felt just as much like an actual confirmation.
The prospect of being a defender of sorts is really right in my wheel house. Had I been physically qualified, I’d have been an excellent linebacker. “See ball carrier. Engage ball carrier. Destroy ball carrier.” Had I been born at the right time, I’d have made an excellent tailgunner in a plane such as the B-24’s that Richard Farrington piloted. “See enemy plane. Engage the enemy plane. Destroy the enemy plane.” Or perhaps die trying. These are simple tasks involving laser focus, sanctioned violence, and immediate results. Elegant simplicity. Love it. When I was a kid, I enjoyed designing castles, and then imagining how they might withstand certain attacks. In junior high back when schools taught American history, our teacher gave us the assignment of building sufficient fortifications to defend Breed’s Hill, I think it was. It was a little one-off assignment that wasn’t any big deal in the grand scheme of that six-week period. But I was enthralled with the task and much vexed for weeks that I couldn’t put my design to the test in real life.
When I got older, I grew partial to one particular video game that involves the construction of civilizations which include castles and other fortifications. The game allows you do exactly what I wanted to do with my drawn castles – design and defend a position and see how well the implementation holds up to attack. I don’t get around to playing it much anymore; but if I could live forever, I’d still play that game a lot. Fortunately for me, one of my kids is actually crazy about the same game. So I get to watch, offer pointers, and occasionally take the controls for some live demonstration of how to get things done. Even if I’m the only one who thinks said demonstration is necessary.
There is a lifetime’s worth of behavior traits that support the notion that God made me a defender. Dave Grossman defines three types of people in the world – wolves, sheep, and sheepdogs. I’m a sheepdog by nature, if not by career choice. Outside of law enforcement and military ranks, our society doesn’t value sheepdogs, preferring to lump them in with the wolves as aggressive and dangerous creatures. Our society is pretty stupid in a lot of ways. I assume Michael was hearing that “defender” bit from God, because Michael doesn’t know me well enough to have picked that up on his own. And if God was telling Michael I’m a defender, in the exact time frame that He told him, then I think there’s good chance that Phase II of whatever This is will involve me potentially wielding power via the name of Jesus and by the power of the Holy Spirit, in defense of one thing or another. Emphasis on “potentially”.