Last night I split a bottle of wine with my parents and talked to them about jobs and boys and life and blood work. The Voice was on mute in the background and I was buried beneath a blanket on the couch sitting next to my dad and across from my mom. My dad nudged my foot with his and said, “you’re gonna be okay, kid.” And I made some stupid joke so I wouldn’t cry.
Today I came to work and sorted through my inbox over my third cup of coffee. I paid my renter’s insurance and my credit card bill and simultaneously made a to-do list and a new playlist on Spotify.
And then I thought about my dad nudging my foot with his. And I went to the bathroom so I could cry.
My mom made a comment last night about the things my dad has been through. He’d never say this, but in some ways his life has been a bit tragic. And what my mom was noting was just how striking the “bullet points” of his life are – how trauma and heartbreak and post-9/11 unemployment and being given three months to live have become these incredibly prominent events that act like chapter titles for his life.
And I wanted to squeeze him because he’s my favorite and because I hate that life is hard.
“But it’s been an adventure,” he said with resolve. “I’ve never been bored.”
And I can’t understand it. This man – the quiet, reserved, suffering servant type – has been just relentlessly kicked in the teeth by this world. He’s dealt with miserable jobs, massive disappointments, bipolar children, outrageous hospital bills, family hysteria, and a hundred other things of which I’m sure I don’t understand. And now he’s sick. With a disease they can’t explain or fix. And so in the midst of the crazy and the bills and the hysteria and disappointment he’s told he’ll be in pain for the rest of his life.
That’s not an adventure, I think. That’s a tragedy.
Adventure is seeing the world, right? Isn’t that why we write “wanderlust” on sepia-toned paper and get the outline of the world tattooed on our wrists and hang maps on our bedroom walls, designating the places we’ve been to with brightly colored push pins? Shouldn’t our bullet points and chapter titles be learning new languages and starting our own non-profits and seeing every baseball field in America?
Not heartbreak. Not autoimmune diseases.
And he sees me thinking this. And he knows that it makes me sad. And he knows that life has kicked me in the teeth a few times, too. And he nudges my foot with his and says, “you’re gonna be okay, kid.”
And I remember this at work. And I go to the bathroom so I can cry.
Because I’m 24 and sometimes I still need my Dad to hold my hand when my head gets stormy. And because I wish he wasn’t sick. And because I wish he would get to retire on the beach like he’s always talked about but I know he probably won’t.
I cry because it’s really starting to look like the adventure I envisioned for my life is not the one the Lord has given me. I cry because I thought I’d have a few more chapter titles under my belt by now – or at least more impressive ones.
And then I cry because I realize this is better.
I haven’t learned any languages or started any non-profits and I don’t even really like baseball all that much. I’m constantly scared that my best days are behind me. I haven’t built many friendships this side of graduation like the ones I had in college. I haven’t really chased any dreams or changed any lives and I’m not sure what I’ll say at my high school reunion. I thought I’d be in New York by now. I thought I’d have fallen in love with a brown-eyed boy from the south. I thought I’d be a little more impressed with myself – like I’d have some really beautiful boho braid and have spent a summer working on an avocado farm or at least be working on my law degree. And I thought I’d be done with crying over boys and insecurities and the storm clouds in my head.
I haven’t done any of that.
But I have a dad who nudges my foot with his when I need him to.
I have a job that I enjoy and a church that I can invest in. I have friends who bring me lattes when I’m in the dark, twisty place. I have enough money to get my oil changed and pay off my student loans, little by little. I have community to walk with and a lake to run at and a bedroom that gets really wonderful natural light. And a bathroom to cry in at work when it’s all a little too much.
I’ve always wanted my bullet points to be exciting. To be different and impressive and inspiring. I’ve always wanted New York and law school and the brown-eyed boy. I’ve always wanted the adventure.
“But this is the adventure,” he says.
This is the plot. This is the beautiful simplicity of living and learning and wading through the ordinary. This is the glory of being cared for in seemingly unremarkable ways by a pretty remarkable God. This is the bigger story, the story in and around and under the bullet points. It’s the sovereignty of the one, true God. It’s the love that shows up in confusion and tragedy and heartbreak and pain. It’s God redeeming his people. And it’s your tiny, ordinary part in that.
I’m not sure how to keep that perspective when the adventure sucks. I’m not sure why life always kicks you in the teeth.
But I’m sure that God is good. I’m sure that He is sovereign. And I’m sure that He meets us on couches and in bathrooms, with lattes and sunlight and dad’s nudging your feet.