Where the Ideal Meets the Real: Some Reflections about My Abstract Life

From the start, my life experience has always been one of nagging incongruity. The ideal, the imaginative, and the theoretical have always seems more real to me than the sensory world in which I have to remind myself that I live.


I find myself floating in a world of the ideal until ideal and real meet. When my world most find its meaning is where the ideal touches down with the real. When that happens, I latch on with my whole being. There have been four areas in my life where I have tangibly experienced this “latching on” to reality: God, Amanda, learning, and running. (I should also say that my parents are certainly a profoundly positive role in my development, but one that has been so consistent that it is hard to quantify. What I have primarily highlighted here are paradigm-shifting life events).


God: I always believed in God by way of affirmation, and never thought myself at odds with Him. Most of my experience as a child has been, however, one of what I would call “floatiness,” a sense of being in my own world apart, and not quite sure what to do with it. I learn to “blend in” to a degree, but it always comes up unsatisfying and embarrassingly false. Then God got ahold of me. He is the point at my life in which the Ideal became Real, and the ideal paradigm through which my foggy world of imagination found tangibility. In Him, also, I found that this True Ideal contacted the world in which I lived so potently that I have since found it irreversibly intoxicating.


Amanda: I’ve found this connection with my relationship with Amanda. She will be the first to tell you about my spaciness and how it is often uncertain whether I am actually where I am. But, I know for sure that, through her, and my relationship with her, the ideal lens that God gave me has found its most tangible point of application. Christ; God imaged; the Beginning, Middle, and End of all that there is, gave us a tangible illustration of His relationship to us: marriage. This covenant bond with Amanda, played out in daily scenes, is the most human lens that I have and have ever had of this redemptive congruity of the ideal and real. Here, I am the most alive and connected.


Learning: I was not a reader, but the summer of my senior year, when I sat on my parent’s back porch trying to read C. S. Lewis’ Mere Christianity, my life changed. For the first time, I was reading someone who discussed the faith in a way that I found gripping. This has formed a lasting friendship with C. S. Lewis that has opened up the doors for me to meet other thinkers as well. I’m not a great reader, but in the past years the Apostle Paul, the Gospel writers, Moses, Isaiah, David, Solomon, Qoheleth, (and, less great) John Piper, R. C. Sproul, Dallas Willard, Fyodor Dostoevsky, Meredith Kline, Soren Kierkegaard, and others have been conversation partners as I’ve tried to find continual congruity in the world I find myself. They are friends and mentors that I have found are asking and answering questions that I thought I was alone in asking.


Running: Least importantly, but not without meaning, running has served that role in a minor sense. Growing up, I never thought myself athletic. But, especially from my grandfather (Pop pop) and my mom, running has been in my genes. The first time that I knew I had athletic potential was in 8th grade soccer practice, on distance runs and sprints, that I realized that running came much easier to me than my peers (it was the only thing that came easier). Then, I found out about about cross country, and was spurred on by our very inspiring coach, Joe Feeley (Sr.). I wasn’t the best runner, and, even up until the end of our running “career,” my good friend Joe Feeley (Jr.) (who has since gone to be with the Lord, where I’m sure he is now much faster and is probably more frequently playing baseball, which he always preferred anyway) almost always out-ran me. But, for once, that didn’t matter. I enjoyed it. And, in it, I found something that I could tell that I was made to do well. Since I heard it, I have resonated with the quote from olympic champion and missionary Eric Lidel: “I believe God made me for a purpose, but he also made me fast! And when I run I feel his pleasure.”


I have continually met others who are more pious than me, better husbands than me, smarter than me, and better runners. The point is that, in these areas, that has not mattered. As my aforementioned friend C. S. Lewis has pointed out, joy is best experienced when it just is, and slips away when it is over-analyzed or compared.

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