"You get out here or I'll break this stick over your backside!"
His father screamed at him, "You'll never amount to anything if you give up like this! Now move it!"
Michael stifled the tears that threatened to flow. He solemnly walked outside where his father waited, baseball bat in hand. He knew his dad was right. If he were to succeed at anything in life, he would have to work hard.
But Michael was only eight years old! Baseball was supposed to be fun, not drudgery. However, he had made a committment to the little league team and his father would not allow him to be mediocre. Not at anything.
One day maybe he could play for fun again.
"Aw, c'mon. Take a break!'
Michael's roomate chided him as Michael spent yet another Saturday night studying. "You must know that book inside and out by now! Come to Jay-dog's party with me! I don't think one night of fun will undo all the hours and hours and HOURS of studying!"
Michael smiled absentmindedly at his roomate and replied quickly, "Maybe not, but I can't undo one night of fun and replace it with all this stuff I gotta learn, either. So, thanks but no thanks. Some other time, maybe."
As his roomate grunted his disapproval and left for 'Jay-dog's' party, Michael fought back the unshed and uninvited tears. Of course he wanted to go out and hang with his friends, but he knew that if he allowed himself to get into the habit of shirking responsibility, he would not become the success his father drove him to be. So he pushed himself harder than anyone he knew.
One day he could relax. Just not yet.
"I think we need a break."
His wife made this announcement after yet another broken promise from Michael. The last broken promise. He had missed their daughter's birthday again. This was two years in a row.
Michael watched silently as she packed up her belongings and loaded them into the awaiting truck. He didn't understand what she wanted from him! Didn't she have prestige, a beautiful home and all the money her heart could desire? So what if he missed a birthday here and there, had to work late almost every night, forgot anniversaries...he was doing this for all of them!
But as she walked out of the door with their daughter, as she turned to look at him one last time, her soft face firm with resolve and her amazingly blue eyes puffy from the wash of tears, as the door to their four million dollar house latched shut,the sound echoing through the empty halls and his empty heart, suddenly his arguments didn't matter. He pressed his hands over his eyes, forcing back the sorrow and pain.
She would come back...someday. At least that is what he told himself.
"I don’t know how to break this to you…”
Michael stared down at the cold, sterile tile beneath his feet as the doctor poured out the details of what would be his last six months of life. It's funny, when you look back at your life as it comes to a close, you don't think 'I wish I had worked harder.' Instead you think, 'I wish I had taken more breaks.'
"Are you trying to break me?"
Michael fell to his knees in the empty chapel, screaming up toward the darkened ceiling. He could not fight the tears any longer as they poured from his heart. Michael's face fell to the time-worn carpet. He wimpered softly as he lay there, vulnerable and alone. This was unchartered territory for him. He didn't know how to do this. How do you cry out to a God that you have ignored your whole life?
"He only breaks you to build you back up." The old preacher said softly to the weary man before him. "He loves you so much. He wants to build you into the man He sees you to be."
Michael felt a strange peace. He could feel the Master Builder tenderly reshaping and mending the shattered life that Michael had placed in His Hands. It was such a sweet release to know that he could let go.
He could finally take a break.
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