Dearest EXPLORE reader,
Many, many years ago a writer for this publication put in a simple sentence in an article he wrote that has stuck with me for the next dozen years that I’ve been doing this magazine. It was a simple sentence and I don’t think it was even really supposed to be the “point” to his piece, but when I read it, I inhaled sharply and have spent countless hours simply pondering upon it.
“Life should abrade, you know?”
Man, I like just typing that line on this laptop. It’s just so damn…DEEP. I know you’re thinking “Uh, Ben, it’s not that deep and you’re making a big deal out of nothing.” Maybe, but let me tell you the hows and whys of why I consider it so powerful.
I just had dinner with my older 2 kids, aged 15 and 12. While I cooked a simple pasta and shrimp dish, I hollered to make my 15y old daughter come sit on the barstool and just talk to me. She will normally pacify her old man when I call her for these chores, and I only occasionally have to admonish her to put “that godforsaken damn phone down”. She sat, I stood at the stove sipping a glass of wine, and we talked. Yeah, we talked. If you have a 15 year old you know that’s a rarity, but I’ll pat myself on the back that I have taught my daughter that when Dad hollers and says “Come sit with me” while I’m cooking dinner, then my daughter understands that she’s supposed to sit and just chat. I like to bug her and give her a huge hug and remind her that (as a single dad) she is the most important woman in my entire life, and sure enough, we talk about her future plans and who is doing what at school, and how life is just fully conspired against her. Typical teenager shit. But man, I soak it up. As for her, she rolls her eyes. But I like to think that she’ll tell her own kids about the nights that she stood in the kitchen talking with her dad.
Dinner was cooked and I called for my 12 year old son who is the carbon copy of both every good and bad thing that exists within me, though he has amplified the GOOD things up to the volume of 11, despite not knowing it yet. He was being cranky and whiny and my daughter and I chuckled while giving him a hard time about countless things, and he grumbled through dinner and, upon finishing the dishes, wandered back to his gameroom to play Fortnite or whatever stupid game is cool nowadays.
I took a sip of my wine and was cleaning the dishes and noticed that the wooden spoon we were using for the pasta had burned on the bottom as it sat in the pan with too much heat. Being who I am, I must have stared at the spoon for 5 straight minutes.
Because life had abraded.
The definition for “abrade” is “to scrape or wear away by erosion or friction.” The obvious applications of worn tires or ruined razors from the shower are easy applications, but what about LIFE?
“Life should abrade, you know?”
There I stood, stupidly staring at a burnt wooden spoon that had been abraded by use and heat…but really, it had been abraded by LIFE. It was a night of hugging my daughter and sharing a silly story and hearing about who was making out with who under the bleachers. It was a night of chuckling with my son and listening to his crazy thoughts as I sat and watched him and thought “Kid, if I can keep you out of prison, you’ll OWN the world.” Meanwhile, at the end of it, we ruined a wooden spoon. Because life abraded the spoon. The process of existence caused the abrasion of a wooden spoon and I stood and stared at the damned spoon and just smiled. Talk about a Hallmark moment.
I have scraped paint in my house and a random shoe laying in my backyard and I even have a couple of broken shutter flaps on my windows. Each of them make me groan a bit when I see them, but the reality is that I wouldn’t trade them for anything in the entire world. Because MY FAMILY made those imperfections, and our lives abraded, you know? In the pursuit of existence, we caused erosion. And thank God for it.
I have another son, and if we are friends on Facebook (if we’re not, we should be), you’d know that he doesn’t get to come around too much. We have a great relationship, but through a sad set of circumstances, I’m a bit minimized in his life. He’s the opposite of “abrade”. He should have the bumps and bruises and stupid memories of making pasta with me that my daughter has, but he doesn’t. It is what it is, I suppose, but he is far too smooth without the abrasions of life with his father. He doesn’t know to come sit and talk to his dad when I yell, and he didn’t have the pasta dinner that burned the spoon, and for this example, he was not part of the abrasion of our life. And that makes me sad.
A wooden spoon with some burned imperfections, a few messy dishes in the sink, a glass of wine, and I lean against the counter while the kids are in other rooms and just sort of stare at the floor.
I “abrade”, you know. I’m no different than the spoon. The heat and the friction and the bumps and the bruises of day to day life abrade me as a father, and a son, and a brother I used to be, and a worker…and some are good and some are bad, but I am refined by experience and my heart is molded by the friction. Life itself abrades me, and I become something a little different for a new day.
We hear all the time sayings like “You know, old Billy just hasn’t been the same since…”. His wife’s death. He lost his job. He found Jesus. He quit drinking. He cut out gluten. He changed his hair color. Whatever. The reasons are endless for life to abrade and shape us, and they will eternally be endless.
I nerd out sometimes on little things like a doorknob in a century old home. I can sit and stare and think about the countless number of hands that have grabbed that doorknob and opened the door…for good or bad. For laughs, or for bad news. For happiness, or to fight. For hope, or for desperation.
I stare at a burned wooden spoon and think similar thoughts. If that spoon was found in 200 years, nobody would think a second thought about the slight burned section of the spoon. But if I were there I would say “Friends, LIFE caused that slight burn and let me tell you all about that night and how I can remember it like yesterday.”
Because, you see, life should abrade, you know. The trick, I suppose, is to let it happen and then recognize it for what it is. Because the things you notice like a burned spoon are quite honestly, the very reasons for our existence. For without them, we are hollow and void of the appreciation that life can bring to each of us.
Welcome to January. A new year, a new opportunity for life to abrade. May you EXPLORE your life, find the imperfections, and then absolutely fall to your knees rejoicing about them because it means that life, my friends, has abraded. You know?