What is life?

If someone asked you “tell me about your life,” do you talk about your possessions? Your wealth? Work? Health? Relationships? Those are things that we have but it’s not what actually builds the content of our life. So what is it?

Memories. Stories. You can’t tell a person something you don’t remember, and the things you most remember are the things that you experienced that made you laugh, cry, surprised, excited, etc.

This past week I caught up with one of my best buds who moved to another state and I haven’t seen in about a year. Life keeps us both busy and its been a few months since we really chatted. You know, one of those chats where time runs by faster than you care to think about and you’re talking up a storm about both important stuff and nonsense; busting up laughing over the stupidest things that only you two find funny. I hadn’t cried laughing that hard in a while.

After we hung up I was remembering the good times we had in high school and college. The times BC (before Christ) and BA (Born Again…or Bad-fillintheblank). We’ve been through a lot together and now there’s a good 1000+ miles between us. We’ve grown up and changed in ways that are both for the better and maybe not so much. But even with all this time and miles between us, when we pick up the phone its as if a minute hasn’t passed by since we last kicked it.

Memories. They are the building blocks, or wood, that make up a house regardless of whether it will be inhabited or abandoned. There’s not much to enjoy though in a house (life) that’s abandoned. It’s why memories aren’t meant to be built alone, but to be shared with people you love and care about.

It took me two years of college, a study abroad trip, three years of work, several other trips in between, a year of jobless international solo travel, a hard but broken heart and five digit total expenses over those years; to finally understand that fact.

“Why Do You Do This To Yourself?”

In 2012 I went on a study abroad trip to Turkey. During my time there I took a week off to go travel, by myself, in the middle of the country where people barely speak a lick of English and they could easily take advantage of a lost foreigner. I had nothing except a small backpack and a desire to see the seven churches in the book of Revelations (all in Turkey).

Without writing a novel with all the details here, I have to say it was one of the most amazing and life-defining experiences of my life; where I met wonderful people, experienced a foreign culture first hand as an adult on my own, and learned to walk by faith and not by sight. More relevantly, it refined me as a person who likes to be extremely self-sufficient.

This particular skill and experience comes at a cost though, because I’d be lying if I said I didn’t struggle with loneliness for a long time even after then.

So here I am, one of those days in that week traveling through Turkey, sitting on a bench in the city of Salihli (formerly known as Sardis) after having just arrived by bus. It’s during the time of Kurban Bayram, which is the annual Islamic celebration of Abraham’s willingness to sacrifice his son to God. There’s literal blood in the streets all over the country, because people are taking their sheeps, goats, cows, donkeys, etc., out into the streets to slit their throats and prepare them for a multi-day feast. I’m sitting on this bench just before sunset, observing people clean up the blood on the streets before dinner, not knowing where I was staying that night (I always booked hotels last minute), letting the reality of my existence in that moment sink in; and then I hear the Lord speak to me.

“Son, why do you choose to do things alone?”

“Because I get things done easier, faster, and the way I want. I don’t have to deal with being disappointed by people.”

“Is that really the case? But at what cost?” He replied.

Immediately in my head I reasoned “the cost of companionship, brotherhood, fellowship, and love. Haven’t you read before: ‘It is not good for man to be alone’?”

Side-note: Those quotes up there are directly copied from a journal I still have from that time in which I wrote down what had happened during my travels.

I’ve traveled to many other cities and countries since then, had lots of amazing once in a lifetime experiences that most others unfortunately don’t have, and successfully made and spent lots of money; yet it wasn’t until this past year that I finally understood what God was speaking to me all those years ago. I preached vulnerability and love with others, but I didn’t practice it with myself.

Even though I built a lot of good solid fun memories all those years, it would be nothing compared to if I had shared those same memories with a loved one by my side. Honestly the best memories I have are the ones that God, my family or friends are involved; no matter how eventful (lit) or not it was. It is for this reason that I write this as a little reminder of wisdom to myself and anyone reading this.

The Lesson

Life is not about what you do, where you go, or how you live; at the end of the day it’s about who you share it with.

Yes, this great king conquered half the known world, this woman went where no other woman has gone before, this former lawyer lived such and such life of integrity and passive revolution; I’m sure those people would rather tell you more about who was by their side through it all than just their accomplishments. A piece of paper can detail accomplishments just fine, but it can’t bleed, sweat, or show the tears of everyone involved.

A family is not just one person. A kingdom is not just one king. A life is not just one heart.

It takes two to tango.

So don’t isolate, integrate. Build memories with the people you love so that you can laugh, cry, smile and reminisce about it many years from now.

‘Cause I never heard a song sung quite like Elvis
Not much beats the sound of the pouring rain
And there’s something in your kiss
Leaves me so helpless
And I can’t help but, see you again
I can never see the sunrise too many times
Fall asleep with you under the northern lights
And there’s something in your touch
Leaves me so helpless
You leave me breathless
You leave me breathless