Josef Lang '06 Alumnus
My Dad & Making Things New
What do you want? What do you need? Almost twenty years ago I held in my hands a small wooden flute in the form of an elephant. It was my favorite toy that week, and it was broken. Lucky for me, we had something special in our house. This thing fascinated me. This thing was a magic drawer. It was magic because anytime my twin brother or I would break one of our toys, we would put that toy in The Magic Drawer. That's what David and I called it. It was a drawer that was magic - magic drawer. It wasn't a very creative name, but we were four. I could care less what it was called; to that kid with the broken flute it was everything. I would put my flute, my Hotwheels car, my squirt gun (whatever it was I'd messed up this time) gingerly into this wooden drawer in my dad's workshop and shut it slowly before hurrying back out of the dark basement where the drawer lived. The next morning, without fail, my twin brother and I would race downstairs and open the drawer...and the toy wouldn't be broken anymore. It took us a few years to figure out it was my dad. It was my dad fixing the toys; he would wait till we'd gone to bed and the sneak downstairs into his shop and take time out of his night when he could have been sleeping to make a sacrifice for us as a father. This was a unique way for him to show us that he loved us! What do you need? What do you want? Growing up I needed someone to fix my mistakes. My father wanted to be the one to do that for me, and for all of his kids. What I desperately needed, he relentlessly provided. He did this for years! Even after we figured out it was him, he would still fix our toys. You've got to believe that that gift of his time - of himself - was fulfilling for him. It was just written into him as a man - that love is sacrificial.
We all want to be happy and to love. What we need is for someone to show us how, and for someone to give us the means to get there. St. Maximilian Kolbe wrote this in a letter to a fellow priest, "Let us remember that love lives through sacrifice and is nourished by giving...Without sacrifice there is no love...I wish for you and for myself the best appreciation of sacrifice which is the unconditional willingness to sacrifice." He states that appreciation for sacrifice (that without which love cannot exist) is synonymous, or begets, an unconditional willingness to sacrifice. How can we - who desire happiness and love - succeed? Where can we get and how do we foster this appreciation for sacrifice - this unconditional willingness to serve "without [which] there is no love"? Only from looking to Christ. Why? Because he is the unconditional willingness to sacrifice incarnate. Be inspired before you try to be inspiring. God doesn't just ask us to love one another by saying, "A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another.." and leave it at that. He says, "...even as I have loved you, that you also love one another." Be inspired before you try to be inspiring.
God gives us the perfect role model in Himself - in Jesus, and in the life of the Trinity. C.S. Lewis remarks in his writings on the God's "continual standing outside of himself" in the person of Jesus Christ. This Eternal exchange of love between father and son. This is what St. Maximilian Kolbe understood - from a life of prayer to his heroic act of volunteering for execution in place of another man at Auschwitz! How did he love like this?? He was inspired by Christ's sacrificial love! Not only do we as human beings have the opportunity to take in the example of God, and let it motivate us, but we also have available the grace of God to help us to do as he did. Jesus wants us to be happy more than we do. He says in John 10:10 "I came that they might have life, and have it to the full." And he doesn't stop there. He sacrifices his very life to give us the opportunity to be just that - fulfilled. "By his wounds we are healed." By his resurrection and gift of the Holy Spirit we can also have His grace to help us to achieve love through gift of ourselves to others.
My dad was the man behind the magic drawer. He never resented me for putting my toys in that drawer, but instead repeatedly gave of himself to mend what I had messed up. We're human, and we won't always be perfect in living a love built on serving others. In fact, sometimes we can be pretty good and acting out of selfishness and contempt for people. Thank God there is mercy and healing for the times we live that way. Our Father in heaven has given us in his Church the magic drawer sacraments of Confession, Anointing of the Sick, and the Eucharist. HE WANTS TO HEAL US WHEN OUR HUMANITY NEEDS MENDING. When we've messed up what we can't fix on our own. His perfect and sacrificial love invites us in, and asks us to share with others what we've been given. He is the perfect model for happiness - for joy that comes from sacrifice "without [which] there is no love. Christ in his mercy is everything. God, in his perfect example, and gift of grace, is everything. He is everything we need. What do we want?
Josef Lang grew up in Omaha, Nebraska. He spent four years at Kansas State University, and abroad in Copenhagen, Denmark, working towards a Master's of Interior Architecture and Product Design. A craftsman and artist, he specializes in the designing and building of contemporary furniture. His educational background has shaped his understanding of culture: just as a complex object is made up of many parts, so too is the culture made up of and influenced by a myriad of factors. He sees the value of an analytical as well as compassionate approach to restoring and rebuilding our relationships and societal values. In the work of The Culture Project, Josef appreciates the incredible opportunity to bring authentic witnesses of joy into the lives of young adults. Through this work, he hopes our culture will come to a profound understanding of the immeasurable worth of the human person.