Saturday, April 6, 2013

Toothpaste

“You’ll have to manage without pocket-handkerchiefs and a good many other things, Bilbo Baggins, before we reach our journey’s end. You were born to the rolling hills and little rivers of the Shire, but home is now behind you-- the world is ahead.”
- The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey


I am on the next leg of this (seemingly) never-ending journey. Colorado is behind, and after a brief stop in Texas I’m now settled in Tennessee for a while.

It’s been 10 months now since I set out on this road, taking work as I find it, aiming towards goals as they are given. The future is still uncertain. The moment is still in flux. And I’ve been living in this blur of new states and strangers’ faces and always another expectation slipping away long enough now to name some of what it feels like, to give substance to it.

Somedays I’m doing freelance work, sometimes volunteering, sometimes simply spending time with people I know (or don’t know). I hop between states like some kind of rock and roll gypsy, shedding unnecessary belongings as I can no longer take them-- giving them away to thrift stores and friends and siblings, throwing useless items away, leaving things in airport trash bins when my luggage gets too heavy. Because finances are always tight (often non-existent), I do without a lot-- last summer I realized at one point that I hadn’t been able to afford or acquire my own toothpaste in weeks, and I’d been either borrowing or just using water. Similarly, someone’s unwanted soap becomes shampoo, and my battered green hoodie becomes a stand-in pillow. Since I sold the car for scrap, I often walk or run 6 - 12 miles a day between self-imposed exercise and just getting where I need to be.

People tell me that I am fortunate, and I know it to be true. Though I have no home, I am far from homeless-- I have people all over this nation who would take me in without a second thought, and for that I am blessed beyond reason. I am living the kind of adventure so many of the artistic bleeders and thinkers of my generation have dreamed, and I am doing so because I am somehow graced with kindness.

But sometimes, even as I agree that this life is a gift, I want to be able to tell them that though the big thing is good, it’s the small things that trip me: sometimes I just want to have my toothpaste and my shampoo and my shower schedule back in place. I want to tell them about the days I borrow a car and drive to buy coffee I can’t afford just to feel like I’m something close to a normal 21-year-old. I want to explain the moments of suffocating anxiety that have returned these 10 months for the first time since 16, the gasping dark nights where I tremble and force the empty lungs into silence. I want to explain that sometimes what we miss feels so much heavier than the uncertainty we’ve gained.

And that is why I couldn’t do this for any reason but that of Christ. I did not follow a dream into the dark. I did not chase success or my own understanding. I simply heard Him call me, and I came. Throughout these months there have been times I’ve wondered, I’ve honestly looked at my heart, I’ve feared: maybe sometimes when the instability is too much, I would trade toothpaste and normalcy for this fire and the white-hot refining of my Jesus.

This is why I know I am not living this way because my faith is strong, but rather because it was weak enough that it needed all the crutches stripped away so it would be forced to limp along until its muscles strengthened. I am grateful for the grace of sleeping on futons and beanbags and buses, of overdrawn checking accounts, of constantly dead phone batteries, of loneliness. These things retrain my eyes to look beneath the shallow skin of this world, to see where the Kingdom of God is already bleeding through the cracks, pulsing with life just beneath the shell built from all the dead things we’ve piled on to keep ourselves intact.

And though maybe those times still come when I want stability, when I want comfort-- I know in my heart it really wouldn’t be worth it. Maybe what Christ has offered me is worth losing everything for. Maybe there is a different kind of stability to be gained just in knowing that.

And maybe toothpaste doesn’t really matter so much after all.


- Elraen -


(P.S. - Tonight I have toothpaste, shampoo, and a bed to sleep in. And it's beautiful.)

3 comments:

NarnianWarHorse said...

Hmmm, how much we resonate with our beloved Mr. Baggins in these situations! We often 'think of our comfortable hobbit-hole' and wonder how summer is getting on back home... Ah, well, at least we know we'll be stronger for taking the journey.

"Some say "home is where the heart is" - my heart is in Your hands; You are all I need.
Falling from the rooftop, crashing like a raindrop. Can you make my heart stop shaking like a leaf? Standing at the Floodgate, steady as an earthquake...
Lifted from the madness; Now You say my heart is deep enough to dream."

(--Bebo Norman, 'Drifting')

Love you. *hugs*

~Bree

Kjelse said...

I miss you. A lot. And I'm so glad your faith is being strengthened, even though it is often tough. My heart aches for you, even as your words resonate in me...overdrawn bank account, loneliness, etc...

Eclectic Elegance said...

*hugs tight* I have had some of those "gasping dark nights," questioning whether or not I was really called on this quest or not. Being out on your own and being broke is...really quite hobbit-like, actually. *hugs again* Thank you for your thoughts, my friend. :-)