I turn 44 today. Birthdays provide an opportunity for self-reflection. Sometimes looking backward provides the way forward. Looking through some old writing, I found a ponder that I pondered years before I met Mary.
At the time, I was searching for my new identity. My whole life up to that point exploded in a ball of fire. I spent three months walking around the woods in prayer, searching for a snapshot, a kernel, a seed of the goal of my personal transformation so that I could start walking in that direction.
It turns out that God had me where He wanted me. He was just waiting for the right time for the big reveal. He wanted me to know that I am called to be an Alpha-Omega male. I’ve been working for about the last 15 years to figure out what that means.
God just loves a mystery. I’ll probably be chewing on it for the next forever.
Christ is the model.
Looking at scripture, Christ refers to himself as the Alpha and the Omega, which signifies the Beginning and the End. Applying this concept to my life is difficult. I still can’t say that I fully understand it.
One way to look at this is to view my life as a constant series of beginnings and endings that overlap like short stories in an anthology. Each story is complete and distinct, yet they are inseparably interwoven into the book of my life. Characters come and go, circumstances change, and lessons are learned.
I’ve read a lot about the concept of “beginner’s mind”, in which I strive to achieve a state of childlike curiosity. Jesus said that I must become like a little child to enter the kingdom of God. I must constantly search for Truth and discard useless preconceptions that cloud my vision and understanding.
My journey into Christianity has been a series of new beginnings. My understanding of myself and of God has been radically recreated more than once. Clinging to any preconceived notions of who I am would blind me completely. Discarding these old visions of myself is a lot like death. Like a man lost in the desert, I gradually drop possessions one by one until left with sand and sun and thirst. And somehow this thirst leads me to freedom. To living water.
As a Christian, I am called to die to the world so that Christ can live in me. In this daily death, Omega is fulfilled. This is a key component of the redemptive message of Christ, that the grain of wheat must die to bear fruit. To view each moment as a new birth frees me from the shackles of the past and allows me to be fully alive in the new adventures that God gives me.
Raised by wolves.
The paradox of the Alpha and the Omega takes a different form in the animal world. In packs of wolves, the alpha male is the most powerful, the leader of the pack, whereas the omega male is the scapegoat and the fool. The alpha dominates his fellows and the omega bears the brunt.
Interestingly enough, the omega is just as important as the alpha. The omega/scapegoat carries the weight of aggression and suffering so that the rest of the pack can live in peace. Combining these two opposing roles is a call to both leadership and to self-sacrifice.
These opposites seem irreconcilable until I look at a Crucifix. The Savior on the Cross. Victory through suffering. Dominion through submission. Strength in sacrifice. Power through humility. Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the world.
It also puts suffering and success together. They are equally necessary to shaping who I am becoming. My period of madness acquainted me with suffering that is impossible to describe fully, but from it blossomed the redemption that I now hold more dearly than my life. Success often looks very different than what the vain world portrays. This new understanding has given me the strength and determination to walk wherever the Holy Spirit leads me.
Living servant leadership.
Being called to be an Alpha-Omega Male means becoming more Christlike. The 15 years since this pondering in the woods have taken me places that I never would have imagined. In that time I’ve become a husband, father, writer, and beggar. I haven’t collected any of the things that the world prizes. But I have been transformed.
And the beautiful thing about this transformation is that it is ongoing. I’m not finished yet. The call to be like Christ, who is infinitely good and powerful and loving, means that no matter how much I grow, God has even more planned. As St. Paul says, I am transformed into the His same image from glory to glory.
It’s so exciting. My life is richer, fuller, more beautiful, but also very different from what I could have imagined 15 years ago. It’s better than I would have imagined because it’s the fulfillment of so many of God’s plans for me. He’s got really great plans.
The best thing is that He’s not done. To be more like Christ means to grow in my capacity to love, to suffer for the sake of those I love. It means to grow in patience and peace and understanding and good humor and all the other things that make me a better husband, father, writer, and beggar. A better everything, really.
On my 44th birthday, I can’t take credit for any of this. Give God the glory for the transformation that has taken place in my life. And I give thanks to every person who has walked out these past 15 years, through good times and bad, and was so instrumental and patient with me. I couldn’t have done it without God, and I couldn’t have done it without you. May God bless you as much as you have blessed me.
Today is indeed a happy birthday.
Jesus snatched me out of the darkness and saved me from complete madness. If you want to hear more of that story, check out Demoniac, now available on Amazon.