The Machine - By Guest Contributor Matthew Rowe

Matthew Rowe is a long-time friend of Lee Ferron, member of St. Brendan’s and frequent contributor to Macalla. On the rare occasion, Matthew can be spotted in a pew among us, hailing all the way from Minnesota. Most recently, Matthew joined Lee and several other Brendanites at the 2014 New City Arts Forum conference on Food, Art and Community in Charlottesville, VA. His creative spirit, probing questions, and thoughtful reflections made a mark on those of us who spent time with Matthew.

I circle the machine warily, staying in my basement's shadows. It's a large metallic gray cube, about the size of a small sedan, complete with glowing buttons, knobs, dials, and screens. Its lights flicker and flash. My eyes are narrowed and the baseball bat in my hand feels light and swift.
The machine beeps and boops. It boops and beeps.
Questions run through my mind, "How long has this been here?"  "Will a bat do the job?"  "How did it get trapped in my basement in the first place?"
I stop circling and scream at it, "Why me!? Why!?"
Beeps and boops. Boops and beeps.
I sigh and close my eyes. As much as I hate that the machine has been hiding in my basement this whole time, my life makes more sense now that I know about it.
In high school I joined the science team because it would help me get into college. Not because I liked science.
I joined the track team because I got to spend time with my friends after school even though I hate running.
I joined the Student Council, the National Honor Society, the Business Club, and the Volunteer Club not because I liked those things. But because they looked good. They were what the machine told me I "should" be doing.
Beeps and boops.  Boops and beeps.
At church I joined the "leadership" team, not because I liked to lead other people or I thought I was an especially good leader, but because other people thought I should.
I worked at a Bible Camp for three summers because I was a Christian, and that's what Christians should do. Not because I got joy from being a Camp Counselor. I didn't. I just got exhausted.
In College, I joined a ministry that said I should read my Bible every morning and evening, lead a small group, evangelize, pray always, and attend every event. So I did. Not because it gave me joy to do those things or because that's how I felt especially connected to God, but because I was told that "this is what it looks like to be a Christian now."
Beeps and boops.  Boops and beeps.
I open my eyes and stare once again at the machine. So much pain it's brought me. So many opportunities lost. The opportunity to find out what brings actual joy to my heart, and not just what I think should bring me joy. The opportunity to be me and not who others think I should be. And the opportunity to find out who I actually am instead of who I wished I was.
Maybe this is why God brought me low. Continued to let me fall and fail until I found myself stuck and lost in my basement. Until I discovered that this machine was running and ruining my life.
Maybe this is why he gave me this baseball bat.