While I was waiting in the parking lot of a relatively new Cabela’s store in the Portland area for parents to pick up the briefcase their son had left behind at services last Sabbath, I was struck by how surreal my life can be at times. After all, here I was with the briefcase for a young man I barely know waiting for his parents, who I barely know, who go to a church where I am not a well-liked figure at all because of my writing, after having just spent a few hours with a fellow member of their congregation who I have now been surprised to see as a dinner guest twice and have had long conversations now three times in the past few months . So many aspects of the day reminded me of the fact that I am not the sort of person who has ever been allowed to escape from my past. No, I have to a great degree overcome the worst horrors of it, but it always remains around to surprise me in unexpected ways. So it was last night.
As it happens, I was invited to this dinner while I was eating dinner the previous day, and finishing a book that dealt a great deal with Billy Joel and the drama of his life . Then, as I was reading and waiting for the host to finish cooking dinner as the Sabbath began, who should come to the door but a young woman. With no other guests, dinner quickly took on a somewhat unsettling quality of being a date of sorts (there was even a movie involved ), given the fact that it seemed as if the evening was planned by the hosts to throw both of us into each other’s company. The conversation, including our mutual friends and our discussion of our different Feast of Tabernacles experiences, as well as a conversation about her local church pastor, who comes from a family I know a bit too well . So yes, the dinner brought up a lot of memories, many of them painful memories of my life in 2010  which reminded me that I would have liked to have had that year back, to have been less harsh on other people, more understanding of their sensitivities, and to have burned fewer bridges with ill-advised fierceness. Oh, how I wish I had not failed so greatly to be gracious under the pressure of constant insults and hostility, but it is not easy to be good, try as we might.
I often blog a great deal about social occasions. This is true for a variety of reasons, some of which are at least relevant to the point at hand. While I have always loved others and enjoyed friendly company, I am what could be politely termed a late bloomer when it comes to social matters. It was only about the time that I went to college that I had really any solid social life at all, and it was just beginning. I hope in the fifteen years or so since then I have developed some social skills, but I tend to feel rather backwards in that (and other) areas of life. As a result of my own painful life experience regarding such matters as friendship (and to an even greater extent romance and flirtation), I tend to find highly charged experiences where it seems as if someone has an agenda to be very stressful for myself personally, and when I find something stressful it is fairly inevitable that I will write about it. I am aware that not everyone reacts in precisely that way, or even appreciates those who do, but writing is one of the main ways I vent about being stressed out over people seemingly trying to set me up with others (especially those who are being set up themselves), knowing that because of my longing for pleasant company and good conversation over good food that I will be accept such interactions even when they come with potential hazards. I wish I was not so vulnerable in that particular way, but since I am, I figure I might as well be honest about it and try to deal with it as best as I can.
Dinner reminded me of many such larger concerns. As a historian, one of my native tendencies is to seek to distill understanding from the experiences of the past, to relate the past to the present, and to the future. Sometimes this can be an exercise of immense benefit, in terms of recognizing one’s own patterns of behavior and trying to anticipate them or correct them. At other times, this can be a reminder that we have changed or grown from the past, and that we are not exactly the same people we once were, that we are better equipped (hopefully) to handle what life brings, a bit more reflective ahead of time, and quicker to forgive and slower to take offense with the people we happen to be around. And truly, being a witty sort of person myself with my own quirks, I am sure that the labor has to be repaid by others. A lot of bridges were burned in 2010–the stressful life experiences that led to this blog being started in the first place. Between spending four hours with a young lady from another Church of God congregation in the area and waiting almost an hour for another family from that same congregation to meet up so that I could return their son’s briefcase left behind last Sabbath at our post-feast social, I had a lot of time to reflect on the strange course my life has taken, and the way it tends to continually, without any conscious planning on my part, circle in on itself over and over again. If one cannot outrun one’s past and totally leave it behind, I suppose that means there still must be use in remembering it, not merely to frustrate one’s life, but to recognize that no matter how far someone has come, or how far someone has gone, we remain connected with our past and with others because of the ties and experiences of our lives. Hopefully we can use those ties for encouragement, service, and growth. God only knows we still have far to go. I know I do.
 See, for example:
 See, for example: