What Success Looks Like

Some months ago, I was chatting with my daughter Michaela via FaceTime (she’s Slovak, lives in Slovakia, and attends university in the Czech Republic, where she’s studying Arabic and Islamic studies — this makes her “old man” very, very proud — and so all we have right now is Internet chatting; someday, I shall explain how she became my daughter, but it was an act of proclamation, the grace of God, and not biology) when she asks me, quite bluntly:

“What if your book fails? Because here in Slovakia, lots of people dream big, but it doesn’t work out. What’s your Plan B?”

Always practical, that one.

I hemmed and I hawed. Well, I said, success could look like many things: my book getting on Oprah’s book club, Hollywood wanting to make a movie (all possible; unlikely, but possible), and given the story I tell — American Muslim and one-time wanna be jihadi meets Jesus underneath the burning towers of the World Trade Center on 9/11 and goes to seminary to become a pastor — a silent thud in the American marketplace is unlikely. Possible, but unlikely.

So, I told her, I defined success very simply — one offer to be a pastor somewhere. I think that’s a potential outcome. I worry that with the things I reveal about myself, I will be completely unemployable (that too is a possibility in our society of no mistakes allowed), that no one anywhere will want me as their pastor. But I trust God, I told her.

And besides, I did up a nice Europass CV so she could give it to the language school where she teaches English. (A resume service recently rated my CV “poor,” giving it a 5 out of 10, because I only listed job duties, and failed to note how I “added value” to the companies I worked for. Really? That’s a thing now? Is it a sad admission to say I couldn’t even begin to imagine how I’d done that?) That’s my “Plan B,” I told her.

Honestly, though, I don’t even have a Plan A right now, much less a Plan B. Jennifer and I are winging it, making it up as we go along. We’ll see how that works out.

The truth is, however, I know exactly success looks like. It looks like this e-mail I got late Sunday, unsolicited, from Soren McMillan, who has apparently followed my writing career for at least 10 years (I have a follower?) and has just read my book. I’ve never met Soren, and am deeply touched by his response. I reprint this with his permission:

Charles, I wish I were in the position to invite you to my church, but I am “between churches”, looking for a new one.  I just want to say thank you for your book.  I read it over a couple of days, and now my parents are reading it as well.  I first encountered you years ago on the Lew Rockwell web site and appreciated your writing then.  Your book resonated with me as I am a seminary graduate who, in my view, has “lost my way” in many respects, wondering exactly I will do.  I am zealous of the Lord’s leading toward the next step.

From everything I read in your book, I believe that I would love to be a part of a church where you are a pastor.  I think one of the greatest virtues in a godly pastor is transparency, over against a pretense that always places a wedge between the shepherd and his sheep.  Thank you for your transparency.  I may end up buying several copies of your book for my friends – I think your message is that important.  I am far away in South Carolina, but would love one day to hear you preach in person, my friend.  God be with you as you seek his leading.

Soren McMillan

This. More of this. This is success.

* * *

Soren, you will hear me preach. Jennifer and I are going to hit the road, likely soon, traveling from town to town, church to church, bookstore to bookstore, and I speak wherever I can and to whomever wants to hear.

And I hope we can even go as far as Slovakia…