In 4th grade we lived in Biloxi Mississippi on the military base so it was safe enough for me to walk 8-10 houses down from ours to get my friends Robbie, who was a little older than me and had a wicked mean sister, and a hispanic kid who's name I don't remember. I do remember that his house smelled weird and he was missing the first two knuckles of his pointer finger and he limped when he ran because "my legs are not the same length." All the cookie-cutter stucco houses looked the same and it was hot no matter who's 20 sq. ft. front yard you were in. But we knew to stay away from the girl's house across the street from me because she had a mean Dalmatian that was big and going blind and only my driveway had a basketball hoop so we played basketball at my house most days anyway.
A welcome addition to our crew was Sara who was a skinny tom-boy with a bowl-cut of short blonde hair. I liked Sara because she had a quiet cuteness and was funny and could hit like a 5th grader. She lived one block of houses over, across a more busy main street, so I always prayed that she would come play with us because I wasn't allowed to walk that far. Before I moved away to New Hampshire she gave me a gorilla beanie baby that I didn't get rid of until a few years ago.
Our weird community of friends ran the neighborhood and other kids would join our adventures and elaborate games/dramas. For some reason I was always the mediator. Not necessarily always in the sense of being the peace-maker (though this happened a lot) but also being morale-booster and visionary adventure-brainstormer. And I really put a lot of myself into being the mouthpiece of our group. I wasn't the strongest, Robbie could beat me up if I got too cocky, but I definitely could sway the group one way or another most days.
I remember a few summer days of continuous 4th grade melodrama causing tense division in our hood group and waking up one morning in bed wishing we could all play together again like the good old days (last week). I woke up and tried clenching my fist as tight as I could and, as you know if you've ever tried this, it was really hard to do.
All I remember is that somehow I used this phenomenon as an anecdote during a rousing speech to my sweaty peers in front of Robbie's house that somehow reconciled all our friendships and made everything better again.
I'm not sure I honestly understand how the guts of vocation really works. To me it seems like it involves two impenetrable mysteries: our free will and God's omniscience. But now that I'm three years into being a husband, father, youth minister, and catechist, I'm getting more and more Chekov's Gun kind of moments. Every time I prepare a catechesis, or walk on a stage to speak to a large audience, or get excited about explaining things I'm passionate about to my kids, I remember how hard it is to clench your fist in the morning and how our neighborhood's order was restored by a kid preaching to seven other elementary school kids standing in the grass.
Maybe when we die and are standing next to God looking back on every single moment of our lives, all those flickers will seem like an infinite number of Chekov guns. Every moment, regardless of how banal and boring sitting in your room when you are ten with nothing to do is, returns in the third act to show its latent significance.
I think I could spend an eternity laughing and crying with God as He explains all the elaborate work He put into writing my life. And realizing all the clenched fists and lost friends and words I yelled and really meant deep down in my gut all came from and sent me to the only Person who could pull any of this off, I think I could spend an eternity right there.