“First the light, first the light.. then the sound.” -Brooke Fraser
Misty salt-drizzle, mini-sand tornadoes, and abandoned beach tents–there’s nothing quite like standing on the beach in the midst of a storm. Perhaps, it’s because I realize I could easily be slapped in the face with a lightning bolt mis-fire at any given moment… Or maybe it’s because I’m terrified of its hugeness, the fact that it’s bigger than we can really get ahold of, despite our trusty-dusty weather forecasts. Something too sporadic and strong to be comfortable in, and yet, for those very same reasons, too attention-demanding to break its stare.
I’m not sure about the rest of you 20-somethings out there, but I can get real frustrated with the “in-betweens” of life. You know, the holy-crap-what-am-i-even-doing-with-life season(s), which for me, has really been in the developmental phases for the past 5 or so years. There were times where plans seemed logical– Architecture? That sounded fun. Until I realized I wasn’t too interested in spending 5 more years in school to do something I only half-loved. Then, I had the incredible opportunity to learn about life from a group of teenagers in a youth group, where I was blessed with the task of interning for several years with an incredible group of kids. And through some pretty weird innuendos, I came to the logical conclusion that youth ministry was my occupational destination. Until I started seeing the church as only one of many, many avenues to house a ministry my heart could genuinely pursue. After a few more wild goose chases for the job I was supposed to occupy, I finally landed awkwardly in a graduate school program for Economic Development. It’s kinda awesome– because it doesn’t pretend to be a fixed something or another. It’s a proactive field, one that pursues solution to problems that tangibly affect our environments: economic, social, and the entire abyss in-between. It’s not fluffy. It’s not always a feel-goody type of work, but it makes great differences– both the kinds that can be measured and the kinds that can’t.
I’d love to tell you that I’m a total pro at everything economic development and I’m owning at life in every way… but, for anyone that knows me, that’s nothing more than hilarious. I’m fortunate enough to have incredibly talented people that are willing to sacrifice their time and effort to let me learn from them through means of an internship, and I learn new things every day, most of which I learned little of in school. And, by little of, I mean nothing. As for expectations in leaving the classroom to experience the “real world,” I didn’t really carry many with me. But somewhere in the back of my head, I was secretly clinging to the hope that I’d find that switch in the depths of my being that would instantly make me feel like I had my crap basket in order (I don’t even know what that means, but just go with it). Lo and behold, I found the switch, and I flicked the heck out of it! But it definitely didn’t work… And I feel almost like I’ve taken a tumble into the mess (aka crap basket) that I so desperately tried to “get together.” Hence, me standing at the edge of the ocean in the middle of a slightly terrifying thunderstorm. Yolo.
One of my favorite things about storms is the pause between bursts of light issued by lightning bolts and the rumbling affirmation of thunder that proves their strike. One, I enjoy the longer pauses because it means the storm is further away. And two, it relates to me, in an uncanny, uncomfortable way. In fact, I’d say the whole thunderstorm scenario relates. Perhaps that’s why its glare is so piercing, its stare unbreakable, and its commotion so fixating. It’s a physical demonstration of emotion that can’t really be expressed in words (unless you count the weather channel’s stab at it), but can most definitely be expressed in overwhelming disorder. The irrefutable argument of your smallness, and your inability to control what’s around you is haunting, not just by means of a storm but by means of life’s different rip-tides and undertows disguised as “transitions.” You never notice, until it gives you no other option. First the light, first the light… then the sound.
Those words rang through my brain all day today as the rainy day gave me an excuse to introspect. If you don’t recognize them, you should listen to Brooke Fraser more often–she’s pretty awesome and has some cool music. But moreso than that, her work almost always gives me foundation to build on, apply, and analyze. When I think about thunder and lightning, I think about it in that order: first, thunder; then, lightning. Which is kind of strange, considering it doesn’t occur like that, obviously. First the light, then the sound–that’s the way it works. And that’s exactly what today’s storm-watching reminded me of.
The comforting/terrifying thunder affirmation of lightning’s presence can’t be experienced without the flashy strike of a lightning bolt. Maybe that’s what I needed to see– the possibility of making a flash. The fact that the rumblings of precision in life can’t be obtained without a seemingly-sporadic stroke of light into a dark abyss. Thunder requires lightning. Pathways require move-making. And perhaps the storm I see in my reflection most mornings is ready to throw a lightning bolt down somewhere.
There is no get-a-grip-on-your-life-button. I know, I know–disappointing. For all the people out there that read the 20 reasons your owning at your 20s or whatever other articles that flood Facebook as if it’s some sort of life-cure… if you’re anything like me, you’re probably not “owning” much at all (of course, it could just be me). In fact, if you’re anything like me, you’re probably distracting yourself from reality by making half-serious plans to live in an Airstream in abandoned property on the beach (passed it today- I called dibs). But we all have to make a move of some sorts at some point to play a role in the seemingly never-ending in-betweens of the mid-twenties. Maybe I’m just a hopelessly distracted millennial, but I’ve come to the point where I’m realizing that my wants and desires change as fast as the weather does–and that’s saying something because I live across from the beach. Sometimes, I wish I lived in an Airstream… because I wholeheartedly WANT to live in an Airstream. Yet, at the same time, I long for roots, a place to plant myself, invest, and grow. It’s a constant tug of war between who I am and who I could be– both of which I find pretty hard to define more times than not. It’s that state of commotion that I’m tired of being in, that place where decision is absent and fear of being wrong stands in its place.
If this makes sense to you at this point, you might be insane. If so, welcome! I’ve somehow gone from talking about thunder bolts to crap baskets (still don’t know what I mean by that) to life. Ya know, I believe God to be one who loves to watch us grasp for logic and sense in the midst of so much we don’t understand, probably as entertainment. The older I get, the less black and white things become, because there’s so much room for perspective and interpretation that totally opposes the next. Lines become dim chalk lines on a sidewalk that we manage to justify hop-scotching over. Today (Sunday), standing in the rain as lightning picked its target and struck– I was reminded that storms don’t pass by without some sort of show, some sort of intentional disruption. They don’t just hover over places and make camp.. They whistle with winds, they strike with lightning, and they crackle with thunder. And however silly I feel putting these thoughts to paper, I felt affirmation today from a dang thunderstorm that it’s time to throw a bolt or two of my own, to stop accepting my stormy reflection as adulthood.
So, if you’re fighting with yourself and pissed that your life doesn’t fit in a guidebook to success– I hope that somehow this comforts you. The people that have it “figured out” don’t really have all their ducks in a row. But the handful of ducks that are in line were only put there by taking action, by making decisions, and accepting the consequences that come along with them. Limbo is good, for a season… but it’s toxic when we stay there expecting it to end on its own without our participation. Fortunately (and/or unfortunately at times :P), God allows us to play a role in his plans, for reasons that I will never quite understand. But this I know– there’s something to be learned in having to make decisions that you can’t back up 100%. And I think it’s time I stop justifying and start lighting bolt-throwing. Let’s do this.
Wishing you lightning and thunder,