Charles is a rambunctious holy mess, for sure… — Rod Dreher
I think that’s a really accurate description. It says all I think needs to be said, to be honest. And Rod has never met me, he’s only read my book. I’m not sure what else to say, or where even to start. I hate having to describe myself, and I’ve always tried farming this out to others who can do a better job than I. But I’ll do what I can here.
So, here we go. First and foremost, I am Jennifer’s husband. I get no greater joy out of life than knowing she is my constant companion, my best friend, and the love of my heart. We met at the Daly City BART station in the summer of 1988, and got married in 1992. We have been almost inseparable from the day we met, and those times we’ve been apart — spring semester of 1989, the months I spent in the United Arab Emirates, in Saudi Arabia, and most of my first semester at Georgetown — were agony. There is no one on God’s green and splendid Earth I would rather spend my life with. Of all the things I have done, and ever will do in my life, I want to be known as “Jennifer’s husband.” That’s all that will ever really matter to me.
We have no children. Oh, not for lack of trying. But it never happened to us. For much of my life, I was terrified of being a parent, that I would become my father, alternately violent and indifferent. By the time I discovered, much to my joy, that there is no risk of that, it was too late. How do I know I’m not my father? Because some young people have wandered into our lives and claimed them, if only for a bit. Having hungered for many years to be “parented,” I know how valuable it is to have adults who are open to caring for the young people they encounter on the journey. That’s how I acquired a “daughter,” and I have been told that the children who need Jennifer and me in their lives will find us. I will let God lead them to us.
In some form or another, I have been writing my entire adult life. As a newspaper reporter, as an editor, as a blogger, as a preacher, as a songwriter. And now, as a book author. It’s probably the only thing I am reliably good at. Well, I brew beer, bake bread, build bicycle wheels, and I’ve been told I write songs that get stuck in heads for days.
Jennifer and I have lived more places than we can count. Home is wherever we are, together.
I have more education than a human being needs. Really. And that from someone who hated school, and very nearly dropped out of high school at 16. I enjoyed university, my graduate experiences at Georgetown and the Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago. I have no desire to get any more education, and nothing I wish to do with my life requires I have even a lot of the education I have. Much less more.
And, if that weren’t enough, I’ve spent my fair share of time on the “Group W” bench.
What do I want to do? Easy — I want to preach the gospel, teach the gospel, sing the gospel, listen to the aching and suffering of the world and let that world know it has not been abandoned to its pain, its loneliness, its despair. That God is there, in all God’s pathetic weakness, with us. The world seems to know this — it’s amazing who has, in my life, come up to me, shared experiences of the holy with me, asked I pray with them, confessed their sins to me, begged to hear the forgiveness of God. It’s as if some people — people who have been cast aside, people who don’t sit in judgment over others, or busily wield power — seem to know who I am. I don’t understand it. I have never understood it.
I make no apologies for the rambunctious, holy mess that has been my life. Oh, there are things I’d do differently if I could, people I’d treat better if I had the chance. But it’s a small list. I’ve gone too many places, done too many things, learned too much, loved and been loved by so many. The grace I have experienced has been so much bigger than all of the violence and fear put together.
I didn’t choose this life. It chose me.
And I wouldn’t trade the life I have lived — the glorious, sprawling, spectacular mess of a life — for anything.