Flashfoward nine years and here I am-tired, worn out, and almost numb to the passion that once existed. Instead of having all the time in the world for my thoughts and ideas about what I want to do with my life, I am constantly scrambling to accomplish the next thing on my to-do list. My morning quiet times have been shortened by the early rising of two children. While I used to enjoy every moment of a walk or run in nature, it is now interrupted by the needs of children in the stroller who are begging for snacks and drinks. Instead of thinking about where I think God is calling me, I have to think about where He is calling the entire family.
I used to laugh when people said college was not as busy as real life. I did not think it was possible.
In the midst of my pity party of longing for my freedom, I was reminded of someone who had such a different attitude about life. Michael Barbato was one of the Pisgah leaders in college (for you non-Geneva people, the Pisgah Program was full of outdoor experiencial education-ropes courses, rock climbing, camping trips, etc.) and he probably had the most impact on my college life than anyone else.
Michael worked for the Coalition of Christian Outreach and had a vision for the Pisgah Program at Geneva. My favorite classes were always with him and not just because we spent most of them up in the hills on the ropes course or on camping trips. But, because of what I learned through him. He absolutely loved what he was doing with his life. He was one of those rare people who glowed with genuine joy. His patience and kindness surpassed that of anyone else I know.
One thing that stuck with me was when he said, "Think about your favorite thing to do. Now, go and make a job out of that." Impractical? Maybe. But, when you think of your passions, wouldn't those be from God? He gives us our desires for a reason and the world would work much better if we were all doing what we loved to do and what we were gifted for. Michael was an example of that.
After college, I heard Michael was diagnosed with Stage Four Metastatic Melanoma. During his treatment, he kept working for Pisgah. I was working as a youth director and took my group to the ropes course for a day. When watching Michael that day, one would never think he was sick. The image of him "skiing" down a big hill on a bunch of logs, laughing the entire way, is forever in my mind.
That was the last day I saw Michael. We moved to Cincinnati, I eventually got pregnant with Abby and the day I got home from the hospital after her birth, I got an email saying that Michael had passed away.
He died on October 4th, two days before I had Abby. He left behind his amazing wife, Kristi, and two small sons, Peter and Zachary. As a parent for an entire two days while reading that email, my heart immediately ached for his family. And then it ached for an entire world that suffered a tremendous loss. Over four years later and I still have to wonder why God took him home so early.
Someone on facebook recently started a group called Michael Barbato Memories. As I am writing this, it already has 97 members. I have enjoyed reading what others have said about him, each story bringing tears to my eyes.
After going back in time and remembering his passion for life, it was like being hit with a ton of bricks. My complaining attitude and longing for what used to be is ridiculous. I can no longer wish for more alone time or amazing people around me as the answer to my renewed passion. True joy only comes from Christ and no matter my life situation, the passion should remain. It might look different and not appear as exciting or come as easily, but that is part of the Christian walk. We were never told it would be easy.
(The picture is of me jumping from a tree on the "giant swing" and Michael is the one standing behind me, encouraging me to take the leap.)