Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Rinse and Repeat

I want to do something BIG.

An itch, an urge, an instinct, a pang--call it what you will, it undulates within me, now aflare, now asleep.  On the weekends it's the strongest.  I become like a bored little child tugging at her mother's sleeve and pleading, "Let's do something!"  I tug at my husband's sleeve, insisting, "Let's do something BIG with our lives!"  My itch flares up like arthritis, if I'm given enough free time to consider it.  During the week, though, little tasks crowd out the big, distracting me from the irritation.  My daily (mental) to-do list reads like the back of a shampoo bottle I've read a hundred times:  plan, grade, compose, rinse, and repeat.  This repetition is anti-inflammatory, and the itch is fairly well suppressed from Monday morning to Friday afternoon. 

I scratch the itch in various ways: searching real estate on craigslist, writing in my moleskin journal (thinking all the while that the paper connects me to Hemingway), drinking coffee, and reading great literature, for example.  As with all itches, though, such scratching only causes further inflammation.  Until my husband and I have bought a house and opened a non-profit bookstore and coffee shop, and I have written a book and read all the important books in the history of the world, I may still itch--if only on the weekends. 

I want to do something BIG.

There are a few root causes for this itch.  First, I buy into the "if only" fallacy.  If only we owned our own house;  if only we were doing something to directly fight injustice;  if only I were a published writer;  if only . . . . Then what?  Would I be satisfied, itch-free?  I suspect then I would simply itch for a nicer house, a greater impact, or more profound writings.

The second cause:  I forget that the way I wash my hair is important.  Plan, grade, compose, rinse, and repeat.  Plan, grade, compose, rinse, and repeat.  Plan, grade, compose, rinse, and repeat. What am I doing again?  Oh, yeah, now I remember:  I'm trying to make a difference in the lives of young image-bearers.

 The third cause is the hardest to admit.  Even though I know better, I think my value is tied to what I do, to what I make of myself.  My thoughts are something like this:  If I own a cute house and decorate it beautifully, won't that show me to be a beautiful, tasteful person?  If my husband and I own a non-profit organization devoted to fighting injustice, won't that prove we are good people?  If I write a book, won't that mean I'm a legitimate thinker and artist?  And so on.  Wrong as it is, deep down I feel that I'll finally be somebody when I accomplish all these things.

In short, I buy two lies and forget an important truth.  But there is one more cause for the itch, and this one's not so bad.  In fact, it needs to grow.

I itch for Truth, Beauty, Justice, Love, and Mercy to be vivid in my life.  Some of this desire, of course, is a selfish wish for profundity; but some of the desire stems from knowledge of redemption--here and now--and also from hope, longing, faith in consummation to come.  I itch, not only for personal glory, but because I believe that, as puny as I am on the face of the earth, what I do on it matters.

I want to do something BIG.

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