The latest jazz is that Chris has turned into the snoring police. He says that every night Elliot doesn’t sleep on his side he’s going to kick him in the stomach. He vocalizes this, loudly, from behind a huge moustache, while on the other side of the dorm Mark II is interrogating me, asking if I’ve researched opiates, if my truck has rear wheel drive, if I’ve seen the big metal door in the parking garage at the library; if my information is censored the way his is, if I want to go out west with him, if I want to borrow his skis, if I’ve ever seen a bear tracking device. Meanwhile, Errol’s doing laundry, John is making lunch, Mark I is trying to sleep but Ed is playing the mandolin, which doesn’t really matter because of Chris and Eliot’s yelling, and I’m sitting on my bunk bed, bobbing along, trying to type. It’s a mess, to be honest, but one I wouldn’t trade for the world.
I moved into the Star Gospel Mission almost 8 months ago now, and I honestly still couldn’t give you a complete answer why, but through it all I’ve kept coming back to a few ideas:
1) Thoreau says, “Most men live lives of quiet desperation.” And again, “That if one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams, and endeavors to live the life which he has imagined, he will meet with a success unexpected in common hours.”
2) Donald Miller talks about conflict in our stories, how we have to have it, and how without it our lives don’t make sense. He says that nobody cries at the end of a movie about a guy who spends his whole life saving his money to drive off the lot in his brand new Volvo, testing his windshield wipers with a tear in his eye. Then he wonders aloud why, if nobody would care at the end of a movie like this, we keep insisting on living our lives this way.
3) St. Irenaeus says, “The glory of God is man fully alive.”
4) Christ, above all, tells us that “He comes to give us life, that we may have it to the full.”
Like I said, I honestly can’t tell you why I (or Pete) moved into the Mission. Even with In Every Story, even with the people I’ve met and grown to love, I waver between what God’s purposes are to what they could be to if I was ever concerned with his purposes at all. I sometimes think it’s some elaborate scheme, or that I’m learning some small lesson I need to know, or that none of it matters at all, that I just ate “bad burritos.” Other times, Pete and I both get the sense that at the ends of our lives we’ll look back on these moments now and realize that all the decisions we’ve ever made were directly affected by the ones we make now (This is partly because as time has passed, I believe we’ve both convinced ourselves that if we stick with it long enough In Every Story will work. It will, meaning it’s more up to whether we have what it takes to hold on or not than whether it is actually a good idea.).
When I think of life at the Mission in terms of goals and accomplishments, why I came here and maybe where I should be instead, I’m just not sure. I have these doubts. I wish I was in graduate school. Or that I had a real job. I compare myself to everybody else, and it makes me anxious and insecure.
But when, in the midst of it all, I keep coming back to these few ideas, I find faith, and the goals and reasons why I’m doing something or not doing something seem not to matter so much. Life, I believe with all my heart, is meant to be lived more like this. When it is, the restlessness I feel from a life of quiet desperation feels alleviated just a bit. When I do, I find when brushing my teeth, or talking to the guys, or climbing in bed, success in the most common of hours. When I take risks and add conflict to my life, I reap the rewards, and as St. Irenaeus said I would, I feel alive. Above all, as Christ promises, I yearn for a life to the fullest that he can give, and in turn I feel filled with faith, and hope, and purpose, and I get the sense that in spite of all that I’ve learned and all that’s happened and yet to come, the reason I can’t tell you why I moved into the Mission is that it still isn’t finished.
And that’s something I wouldn’t trade for the world.