One thing I’ve always wanted is an interesting, exciting life. By “exciting” I don’t mean that I need all my days to be packed with BASE jumping while handling rattlesnakes, but just that I’ve always craved a life where I’d be challenged and stimulated, where there’d frequently be something new and different going on, where I’d not spend much time stuck in a rut or bored.
And back in my pre-conversion life, I was pretty sure I’d hooked that up. When my husband and I were first together we traveled extensively, lived in the downtown entertainment district, went from zip-lining in the jungles of Costa Rica to underground raves in San Francisco, took big risks with our careers, threw big parties that included fascinating people from all walks of life, involved ourselves in interesting side businesses and organizations, etc. etc. I felt like I had done what I wanted to do: I felt like I lived an exciting life.
This has come to mind lately as friends who’ve known me for a long time have called to ask how I feel about tomorrow, when I’ll have my third baby in three years. A couple of girlfriends who have known me the longest have expressed a particularly pointed curiosity about what I think of all this. “Your life now is so, umm, ” one friend said as she struggled for a way to phrase it, “so different now than it used to be. Do you miss it?”
When she asked that question, if I missed my old life, I realized that I really don’t at all. The biggest reason is, of course, that back then I didn’t know that God existed. As I’ve said before, the worst day with God is far better than the best day without God. But there’s another reason I don’t miss it, one that may surprise some people: it wasn’t that exciting. Not compared to my life now, anyway.
While I probably experienced more surface-level thrills back then such as stepping off of a plane in a new country, or shaking hands with some political bigwig whose fundraising party we had managed to sneak into, it was all basically predictable. Scheduled. I was firmly under the illusion that my life was mine to control, so all excitement had its proper place on the calendar. And when events played out that I had not anticipated, that did not fit with my plans for my life, I’d go into a mode of trying to get everything back in line with an iron fist, wallowing in frustration and angst until I forced things back on track.
It was like riding a roller coaster at an amusement park: exciting, yes. But nice and safe and orderly. Plenty of surface-level thrills without much unpredictability. The car stays safely on the tracks and your route is carefully controlled.
Discovering God and deciding to trust him with my future and to live my life according to his rules has been like getting off the roller coaster and leaving the amusement park — not for a life of boredom, as I might have imagined it to be when I was younger, but for a life of true excitement. If all the carefully planned activities of my early 20’s were like riding a roller coaster, turning my life and my future over to God is like whitewater rafting on an uncharted river. It’s a life filled with plenty of slow, steady parts where I’m just floating along and taking in the scenery; and sometimes there’s rough water; other times there are huge rapids and real danger; but I never really know what’s around the next corner.
When I was younger I would have been shocked and a bit incredulous at hearing that living with a strict faith like orthodox Catholicism would lead to a more rich, more exciting life than anything I’d ever experienced. But, really, it makes sense. What is more intriguing than the fact that the Creator of the universe has a will for each one of us at every moment of every day, and that we are able to tap into that knowledge? What is more exciting than knowing that all we need to do is take life day by day, discern where God seems to be leading us this morning or this afternoon, and then just sit back and hold on for the ride, which may very well take us into uncharted territory that we would have never discovered by ourselves?
I’ve thought about this many times over the past few weeks as I’ve worked to get the house ready for the baby. As I was assembling the new crib yesterday I thought with a smirk, “Boy, I would have never guessed that this is what I would be doing this weekend.” A year ago I would not have imagined that I’d have another baby in August 2007. That certainly wasn’t my plan. But these past nine months have been a wild ride, and something tells me that after tomorrow I’ll have eight squirmy pounds of living proof that God’s plans are always more exciting than our own.