|The Rockville Bridge in Marysville,|
PA.The longest stone arch bridge in the world.
You see, I'm from Pennsylvania. Perry County, Pennsylvania to be exact. My wife and I both come from big, loving families in this area. It had been a month since we've been up to visit family from our new home in Northern Maryland. As I was driving back to pick up my wife, from seeing Mom and Dad "out the valley", I decided to take a little drive through my old hometown. I took the back roads like I used to, remembering all the great times I had there, with buddies from high school, driving around in that beat up Firebird Jim used to have.
I decided to take a drive up one street in particular -- Sylvan Street. It wasn't often that I drove back this street, but when I did one building in particular always stuck out at me: Perry Lodge No. 458, F.&.A.M. I always wondered what the building was for, what Freemasonry was, why those old men from my hometown wore those giant gold rings with the square and compasses on them. What did it really mean to them to be able to call themselves Masons?
It is only at this point in time, being 26 years old and a newly minted Mason, that I can begin to understand what it means to take such a step in a man's life. Truthfully, I wasn't ready to take the step -- but is any Man ever honestly prepared for such a commitment? I believe that question is the very basis for taking the next step in the first place.
Once upon a time, at the ripe old age of 20, I began contemplating taking the step into Freemasonry as my honest-to-God initiation into Manhood. At the time I was the Logistics Manager for a humble local live sound company that did work in Central PA, and other locations in the mid-Atlantic region. I became interested in the square and compasses in general, and what they meant symbolically just for myself as a non-Mason. I purchased a book called Freemasons for Dummies, by Bro. Christopher Hodapp. In it I read about many great men that were a part of the fraternity, its basic tenets, the manner in which these great men conducted themselves, etc.
Yes, I was an anti-socialite, trying to go against the grain, love everyone, and be everything to everybody. A couple years later, 24 years old, I met my future wife. I was still a punk, but somehow, she made me want to be a better person, a better man. She brought feelings from within me that truly began to change my ways. So one day, as I was driving through town, I passed by the local Masonic lodge, and a new seed took root in my mind. Could it be time to join Freemasonry?
I watched the videos of the Ben Franklin impersonator, and was asked, "Is there Greatness in you?" At the time, I was working at a local credit union. A regular member walked up to me, at the teller line, and for the first time I noticed that famous golden ring on his hand -- square and compasses emboldened in red upon it. Immediately, as I recognized that ring, I asked him what lodge he belonged to.
Of course it was, "Perry Lodge in Marysville. Do you know it?" "I sure do. I'm from Marysville, myself. In fact I've been thinking of becoming a Mason. How can I do that?" Sure enough, that Brother had a petition right in his pocket. He handed it to me, I filled it out, and the next time he saw me he signed my first line as we stood there on the teller line. He took it to the lodge with him at the next stated meeting, and the wheels were set in motion. I was excited, I was full of hope, I was shaking from nervousness. But I shouldn't have been nervous.
So, I did. Yet again, I wasn't ready. By the time her and I moved in together into Essex, Maryland, I had been contemplating joining for 5 years. I was now 25, full time job, renting an apartment with my fiancé. Finally, I had time. No school, no extra-curriculars; just work and being a man of the house. I had been reading The Midnight Freemasons blog, as I had been doing for a straight three weeks -- article, after article, after article. I decided to finally look up the local lodge.
There it was -- Jephthah Lodge No. 222, A.F.&A.M. in Essex, MD. I emailed them and waited. After about two weeks I received a reply back from the Lodge Secretary, and was asked to come visit one night for dinner. I was nervous and waited a couple of weeks, but finally one day decided I was going to go and knock on their door. I filled out the petition, but it said on the petition that a man must be of residence of the state of Maryland for at least one year.
Again, I wasn't ready. I had only been living there since August of 2012. It was January of 2013.
So, what truly makes a man ready to join the fraternity and become a Freemason?
The truth is that a man is never completely ready to take that step. It is the Greatness within him, given by God himself, that will make him ready to join. From what I can see, it is Masonry itself that makes you ready for the next step after that, as the time and work are put in at the quarry. No man is perfect, that is made quite evident by what we as Masons do, along with the life experiences that we continue to encounter day after day in our personal journeys. If we continue to wait until the perfect time to take the next step, the next step will take an eternity to make. I found out as much over my own five years of contemplation, and I will never regret making the decision.
My journey has finally begun, and my heart thanks me every day for it.