Friday, April 19, 2019

stay



My thumb pressed open the cover of my granite gray computer. The screen lit up: $425 Chicago à London. The ticket, expectant.

My work cubicle now seemed like a transportation portal, and my co-worker pedaled her rolling black chair up the imaginary diagonal line connecting my cube to hers. She was going to Europe, too.

Stay.

Seeing my email count reach over sixty, I’d suddenly find myself gazing at airports and ticket prices. I’d even bookmarked WOW Air flights with almost too low low prices, an escape at my fingertips.

Stay.

As my mind and heart pulsed to go, my conscience wouldn’t let me. Deborah, you still have student loans. Deborah, quit dreaming. Deborah, it’s probably not your greatest idea to hop on a plan in seven days and spread your wings, traveling across an ocean completely alone and without a plan.

Stay.

You see, staying has never been my thing. The brown-bobbed, almond-eyed boss dichotomized friend paused. “Deborah, why wasn’t it so hard to transition when you moved before—when you changed states for college?” My gut response hadn’t taken long. “I had an end date.” Yes, I knew college was a mini-uprooting and re-planting, but I hadn’t let myself plant that hard. Nah, I knew I’d be at college for about four years, and then the future was wide open. Myself? Remained uncommitted.

Stay.

Then, here. A new city, but a city without a foreseeable end date. Possibilities nagged at me that I hadn’t pursued them.

Because staying scared me.

I sat down on one of the hardest days in November and manufactured it: an end date. No offense to my company, co-workers, or this city—I actually couldn’t think of them as I was planning because it made it harder—but I knew I needed to imagine I had one. I let my strategizing run crazy as I planned till October 2020. It was twenty-two months away. Once it came, I’d go, go to Europe. Something like 19 countries in 9 months. Then, I’d spend the next year in NYC, the next in Chicago, and the next three months in 9 Latin American countries before I’d come back and have my wedding then seven kids. In the meantime, I’d begin a rigorous course of mastering Spanish while starting Greek again, teaching myself French, and starting self-defense so that I’d be prepared on all fronts. Then, I added to my “hit 22 doc” a slew of more things I wanted to research, learn, and develop which only complemented my other new year resolutions docs and my writing and videography editorial calendars. Sound crazy? Yeah, it is.

Stay.

For years, I’ve noticed that I often get the strongest impulse to run in the very moments when I most need to stay.

I sat on my bedroom floor, back against the white paneled door with a magenta pillow. I described it like a building process. Right now, I’m in the stage of getting to create something, like a house. And it’s as if I’m being handed pieces. But, I don’t know what these pieces are for or what they’re ultimately building. I just get a piece and get told where to place it, but that’s it. I don’t have the blueprint. Just a piece.

And? I know what rooms I’d like to be in this house, this house I call my life. Rooms I really, really want. But, I have no idea if they’re in the blueprint or even if they’re in the plan for this decade. All I have is the next (and only the very next) construction piece and my lack of ability to ensure that the house is built just as I want.

Stay.

Staying scares me. Staying sounds like commitment. Staying sounds like saying a yes to something and actually meaning a yes without a way out. That’s what scared me as a fifteen-year-old learning to drive. There’s no margin. Mess up, hit a car, someone could die. I couldn’t deal with that. I wanted insurance that I could somehow still pull an upswing, somehow still make it work, somehow find a way out.

But life doesn’t work like that.

When life brings me things I don’t want to deal with, I want to run. I want to flee to somewhere new, to experience something different. I don’t want to stay in the growth of what the Lord’s doing, I don’t want to stay in all that is called now, called here.

Stay.

But that’s the thing. When you leave something, you leave the good and the bad. When I left my college, I left the insane stress of overcommittment. But I left the people that made overcommittment worth it. When I left my parents’ home, I left the stigma of a pastor’s kid. But, I left the easy availability of their wisdom. When I leave my heart boxed up and guarded from developing relationships in the here and now, I leave my heart out of experiencing what it means to have others carry my burdens and the joys of carrying theirs. When I leave my frustrations with the process and with the waiting central in my mind, I leave the joy of all that makes life so good and so sweet—right here, right now as I stay.

“Love anything and your hearth will be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact you must give it to no one… Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements. Lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket, safe, dark, motionless, airless, it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. To love is to be vulnerable” (C.S. Lewis, The Four Loves).

Stay.

I’m scared to stay because I’m scared to love. I’m afraid to love and have torn away again.
I’m scared to stay because I’m scared to risk. I’m afraid to risk attaching and maybe losing it all.
I’m scared to stay because I’m scared to let go. I’m afraid that letting go means I’ll let go of my ability to make my life into the happiness that it could be.

I’m scared to stay because to me, staying means surrendering. It means staying in one place: in the place where I can’t guarantee what’s in my blueprint, where I don’t have the power to change the blueprint, where I must stay, day after day learning the hard lesson of how to open my heart and not be afraid to love, deeply, even when that means I risk having it torn away again.

Stay.

Because there’s one place I must stay more than all: in where it means to live fueled by the love of God that compels us. I must stay faithful, faithful to that. Because? Well, I know that my October 2020 and beyond plan is just that: a manufacturing of Deborah trying to bring herself to a place where she can stay because she’s tricked herself into thinking she’s leaving. It’s a plan that could happen, but it’s more a temporary coping mechanism to hide the fear that I might actually want to stay or might come to a place where God calls me to leave and I won’t want to and will have to deal with the ripping away again.

All I have is there here, and all I have is obedience. For now, I’m called, called to be as present as possible, to live with my heart and not just my head, to stay fully, deeply, risking pain and all—no matter for how long. I’m called:

to stay.

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I definitely don't want this to be a monologue. What are your thoughts? Questions? Ideas?

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