Monday, September 25, 2006

Coming of Age

It occurs to me that I've been somewhat cynical and negative in my reflections upon our church's departure from The Zolder... I've talked about my rash and foolish behavior in the earliest days of working to renovate the Zolder... I've talked about our church's stupidity and naivete in its slow realization of imminent danger by fire... I've listed a (rather extensive) collection of reasons that I will not miss the Zolder... And yet, I haven't waxed eloquent about the Zolder's many virtues, and I really haven't written much in the way of the typical overly sentimental tributes that one might expect.

Honestly, I don't pretend to completely understand why this is. I certainly didn't set out to observe my reminiscence in this way. My emotions surrounding the Zolder -- though certainly complicated and occasionally confused -- include a much greater proportion of positive feelings than what the last few posts would seem to indicate...

Still... I guess my feelings about the Zolder are very much in keeping with any environment that represents a coming-of-age experience. It seems like I've seen it in the movies dozens of times (though I'm having difficulty recalling specific scenes from specific titles right now). But surely, you must know what I mean. The protagonist returns to his childhood home with a sense of anger and indignation from past injustices -- but also with a profound realization that the person he has become was largely forged as a direct result of experiences in that place. And even when there is a sort of wistfulness that recalls those days long bygone, there is a deeper sense of conviction that one would never wish to return to that same scenario given the greater sense of understanding that has been borne out of the intervening years...

The fact of the matter is that my years in the Zolder have been some of the most difficult years of my life. Learning to adapt to a new culture... surviving a succession of crises in church planting... saying countless good-byes to dear friends... stepping up into unsolicited leadership responsibilties... living in fear of failure (financially, legally, missionally)... getting trampled in unfamiliar roles as pastor, supervisor, coach... It all happened here, in the Zolder. I don't know if I've never felt more stressed, more inadequate, more powerless -- than I have in the Zolder. And yet, I treasure these experiences in the Zolder from the past four years. I don't know if I would wish for the same set of experiences again, nor can I say with confidence that I would have embraced the challenge had I known what it would be -- but I'm a better person for having lived through the last four years in the Zolder. I've seen God work in amazing ways -- most notably in my own life! And through our time in the Zolder, I've been refined in such a way that would have never happened in a laboratory or an academic institution, to be a better pastor, a better supervisor, a better coach, a better friend, a better husband, a better father... a better person.

Truly, such realities are to be celebrated and savored like fine wine.

However, because anger and pain tend to be processed before acceptance and wistful sentimentality -- I find myself currently unable to brew up syruppy love songs to the Zolder. Not that these ballads do not deserve to be written! And I enjoy hearing the stories of people who have had more time to process (it's so curious how the people who think most fondly of the Zolder and Amsterdam always seem to be those who have moved away!) -- as well as the reflections of those who have been blessed with a more innocuous experience of the Zolder, through the contexts of varying stages-of-life and levels of exposure to unpleasantries surrounding the building. But I cannot and will not force myself to artificially manufacture golden clouds of nostalgia. Instead, I will nod soberly and knowingly while embracing the fact that the Zolder is the place where I came of age.


At 2:53 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sadly, you seem to have inherited your father's animosity toward anything close to sentimental. Every once in a while I wish that I had the ability of Michael Landon or his ilk to jerk tears out of a turnip. But alas, I have been conditioned to rely upon my intellect to avoid emotionalism, and regrettably, I've passed it on to you.
(For the record: I can't take credit for your literary acumen. So, there's still hope for you!

At 1:15 PM, Blogger Eric Asp said...

I wouldn't say that I have any inherent animosity towards sentimentality... In fact, it seems to me that my writing often teeters on the edge of excessive nostalgia. But in this particular situation with the Zolder, it seems that I'm unable to turn on the waterworks. I can give intellectual assent to some of the changes that will be effected through our church's transitions, but I can't feel it instinctively. It's complicated. I guess you'd know what I'm talking about, Dad...

Maybe I did inherit (or model) some defense mechanism from you. (And, for the record, I must also say that anyone who can use the phrase "literary acumen" in its appropriate context must be somewhat literary himself!). Thanks for your thoughts.


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