Wild as the West

Last Friday I was sitting at my kitchen table when an email notification popped up in the top right corner of my computer. It was an email I had been waiting for all week—an email that was going to tell me whether or not I got a job that I had my fingers crossed over. About halfway through came the much-dreaded words, we will not be offering you the job at this time.

My heart sunk deep down past my stomach and burrowed itself into the wood floor underneath my feet. If I lived in the world of animation those words—we will not be offering you the job at this time—would have focused, bolded and flew off the screen to smash into my face.

For a month and a half I have felt myself being pulled out into the open waters of creativity and rest. I say open waters because it is uncomfortable and unfamiliar to walk down a road where there are about a zillion forks and I've got the directional sense of wearing a blindfold. To trust that rest and creativity are the paths I’m supposed to be walking down is hard because it is counterintuitive to the college degree I just earned and requires me to forfeit my want for control and stability. The previously mentioned job was the last bit of control I felt I was holding onto, and just like that it disintegrated into dust in my hands.

This past month has been a string of turning down second interviews for jobs that I knew would suffocate my creativity and being turned down for jobs that I actually wanted and my annoying, wide-awake heart piping up every other second about its needs and desires and want to create. There was a time when my heart sat snoozing in the back seat, not making any demands about what exits to take or radio station to put on and me and my shotgun-riding logic were free to make whatever decisions we felt were most reasonable. We would have happily taken a marketing job that made us miserable in exchange for a comfortable little paycheck and avoidance of risk. But now my heart is good and awake and wants to take the scenic route to the Grand Canyon instead of driving straight through to California.

So there I was last week, my last bit of control crumbling around me, with no sense of direction and a heart that is slowly kicking me out of the driver’s seat. I decided it was time to have a stern talk with God, since he is the one responsible for calling hearts awake, after all.

Hey God, I’ve done things your way. I’ve said no to jobs I didn’t feel called to. I’ve been connected to my heart and I’ve been creating more. I’ve allowed myself to rest and be in your presence and not need a to do list but you’re killing me over here. I need to pay my rent. I need to pay for electricity. I have to eat. Am I supposed to just wait for something to fall into my lap? Just sit here and wait?

 Get off the boat.

 My soul stirred rapidly under these words.

 Get off the boat.

God, this is not the answer I was expecting and quite frankly, I don’t really know what it means in the context of my life.

Get off the boat.

 

Do you remember the story about Jesus walking on water and calling Peter out of the boat to walk on the water with him? In that moment Jesus was inviting Peter to do more than just witness his glory and power and kingdom—he was inviting him to experience it. First hand. There I was, having a full-blown panic attack and the picture that was flooding my mind was of a fearful, untrusting me standing in the boat and Jesus calling me out of it; Jesus calling me to more than what I have settled for; Jesus calling me to life.

With absolutely no idea what I could possibly be signing up for I whispered okay and pictured myself taking that horrifying, panic-induced, impossible step off the boat; looking at Jesus and remembering who exactly I was risking it all for. 

Today, my car is filled with a suitcase, three miscellaneous bags, two coolers, a guitar and one questionable bike with two deflated wheels. I am in Phoenix, Arizona. I am driving through to Los Angeles in a couple hours and spending a month there writing and exploring and seeing what exactly that get off the boat thing means. I don’t exactly know what I’m chasing, but right now it looks like some sort of dream that I don’t entirely understand that was put on my wide awake heart by a Jesus that I don’t entirely understand.

When I made the decision to drive across the country last week I wrote the quote by St Irenaeous, “The Glory of God is man fully alive”, on a piece of construction paper, fastened it to an old necklace chain and hung it around my rearview mirror. I would get those words tattooed on my forehead if I wasn’t currently on the job hunt. I want to wear those words like armor, protecting me relentlessly from a life of complacency and hitting the snooze button on my dreams.

And as I drove through Oklahoma and New Mexico and Arizona this weekend, and as my dear travel companion, Ally, made comments about the pioneers the whole way, I realized that there is something oddly comforting about imagining the pioneers forging a path across the west. Imagining how blindly they went into the adventure, not knowing that they would encounter danger and hardship but that danger and hardship would be mixed with intense beauty and wonder. I’m willing to bet that there were plenty of times they considered turning back or believed themselves crazy for setting out in the first place. And just when they wanted to give up maybe into view came the canyons carved out of red rocks in New Mexico or the mountains in northern Arizona or the gold of California. They had no idea what they would discover but they did things for the same reason we do most things—they trusted in the possibility of finding something more. Finding something that was worth the voyage.

I traveled much more comfortably and quickly than the pioneers, and there was no immediate danger of being eaten or killed on the road, but my heart clings to that same hope: that I will discover something that was worth the voyage. That as crazy as it may seem most of the time, there is always something more to be found in following a God as wild as the west.