Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Adventure v. Tranquility [Question from 1/4/10]

As a gateway into everything that's on my mind, Monday's question:
Which would you choose right now: adventure or tranquility? Which would you choose for the long run: adventure or tranquility?
In one sense I'm choosing tranquility right now, because I've consciously chosen a quiet January. For the next 20 days, I have no schedule. These 3 weeks will be fluid, and like any liquid I know they will slip through my fingers, uncontainable, passing by so quickly. They will pass by quietly too, I think. The apartment is nearly silent these days, because I am the only one here, as though I owned my own house. I haven't been locking my bedroom door, since I am the only one who even comes into the common room. No one else is using the bathroom, no one leaving dishes in the sink, no one cranking the heater up to 80 degrees, no one forgetting to lock the door into the apartment.

No one is making noise in the building, either. The first morning I was back, I was surprised to see footprints in the fresh snow by the back door to the building, because the whole place is so silent. The heater whirs and the wind sighs, but no human voices speak in the hallway, and no doors slam closed. The building is sleeping, and the warm air murmuring out of the heaters is its tranquil snoring, its steady breathing.

Yes, I am tranquil now, in this quiet building, with the pale sunlight pouring in the window, and the snow frozen in patterns on the ground outside.

But I haven't been tranquil for all of these recent days, and my apartment hasn't been empty this whole time, and I haven't been silent this whole week. On New Year's Eve, I was in St. Louis, at the Urbana conference, singing and shouting and dancing with 17,000 other Jesus-followers, and my ears were ringing. On the first day of the new year, I was on the clattering Metrolink, and on a roaring Delta plane, and on the whooshing Airtrain out of JFK, and on the rumbling LIRR to come back here. My sister was with me, to sing and chatter and cry and giggle and screech and guffaw. Urbana was an adventure. Traveling in the snow was an adventure. Sisterhood is an adventure.

So I've been choosing those adventures. And even more, I'm choosing the adventure of letting go. Emotions are spirited creatures, which shriek and soar and scatter more often than they curl up and sleep. I'm letting my emotions out to run, instead of trying to keep them in stalls in a static stable. I'm letting someone into my life, into the unswept and badly lit corners, into the rooms visitors never touch. He is asking about the cabinets whose contents I don't show people. I find myself unlocking doors, taking out boxes to show him old pictures, opening notebooks I wrote in as a child.

Opening, opening: I am opening my mind and my heart and my arms, and isn't that the essence of an adventure? When you are all out in the open, there is no telling what might fall in or out, what you might gain or lose. When I let my emotions go galloping through the fields, I don't know when or how they'll come back. But I am trying to learn how to ride them. I will risk the bruises and brokenness, so I can feel the wind sweep across my skin, see the sun paint the mountains. I will risk falling because I want to go places, and isn't that the meaning of adventure, too? Exploring new spaces, from which you might not find your way home.

And I want to choose adventure for the rest of my life, too. Tranquility appeals to me, enchants me. Tranquility entrances me into a sleep of self-absorption. Comfort promises peace. But real peace comes in the midst of storms. Real peace comes not from hiding indoors but from knowing the world God created. Instead of folding in on myself, I want to be unfolded, unfurled. I want to have a greater surface area--the better to absorb the light of life.

I'm afraid of that light, I confess. I want the security of staying still. I want to settle in a quiet neighborhood and live next door to my sister and to my best friends, and raise our children like one big bunch of cousins. I want to shut my eyes to the brokenness of the world and focus on packaging myself in cotton and bubble-wrap so nothing can shatter me. I'm afraid of being hurt, of dying.

But the real reason I don't want to die is that I want to live. Life comes from engagement, not isolation. So I want the adventure that pries me open, that tears away my delusions, that unwraps me. I want the adventure that tosses me into God's capable hands, where I've belonged this whole time.

That's what I heard at Urbana, I believe. God confronted me with the fact that my real objection to going into missions is not that I'm uncertain of His will (though I am) but that I'm too certain of my own will. The problem is that I dream this little dream, colored in pastels, of the perfect suburban life with the neat picket fence, when I could be--should be--am called to be--dreaming God's almighty dream of redemption for the whole world, in painted in bold brushstrokes across a canvas as wide as creation. The problem is that I keep seeking tranquility instead of adventure: the adventure of trust. I'm afraid to trust God.

I'm afraid to trust myself, too. I want an instruction manual for my life, step by step instructions on how to solve these equations, algebra in the spirit of the Gauss-Jordan method. I'm afraid to step out and trust that God wants me to explore, that He wants be to really become myself (since after all He made me who I am). In my effort to rely on Him, I sometimes try to make myself an automaton, but that's not what He wants. "I have come that you may have life, and have it to the full," Jesus said.

And isn't that the essence of adventure?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

This isn't going to be a very coherent comment but


Opening up is an adventure. Trusting is an adventure.

Love your writing, your ideas, you.