The first time the neighborhood hooligans came, it was summer. We never saw them, and if our mild-mannered lapdog heard anything, he kept quiet about it. But in the morning, there were three long gashes in the middle of our backyard trampoline.
The trampoline was a hand-me-down from a relative, and I had mixed feelings about it anyway. It had no safety net, and when my son, Dane (barely three at the time) went sailing around on it with his Dad on summer evenings, I got all tripped up over fear and worst-case-scenarios.
But still – to see it stabbed and gutted like that, knife-torn in the daylight, broke my Mama-heart.
It happened the same week as that movie-theatre mass shooting in Colorado, and even though the two events could not be more different, they are forever linked in my mind.
And I think it’s because I was trying to figure out how to tell Dane where the trampoline went. But really, I was trying to figure out how I was ever going to tell him about this world…the one that is not safe, is not kind, is not fair.
I should confess something to you: I live in the suburbs. And I like it. (I know this makes me uncool in the worst possible way.)
I have read all the articles about suburbia and the soul. I know the power of these cookie-cutter houses to isolate us from the reality of a world half-sunk in pain and poverty.
I know that there is something about all these single family homes that are separating us from one another – that community is harder here where we are busy and overcommitted and driving from one place to the next.
But I grew up in a suburban rambler with a lilac bush, and my mom knew every family on the block by name.
And so you can tell me the complications and the downfalls of the burbs. I’ll nod right along with you. But tell me that the soil in suburbia is too sandy for a strong, wild faith – that true Christianity is lived somewhere else – and I will go into Mama Lion mode, because this is my home we’re talking about. And God is here as much as he is anywhere else.
The second time the hooligans came, it was October, and they smashed in all of the pumpkins on the block. When I drove home late that Friday night, I had to keep maneuvering the car around hollow pumpkin shells and splattered guts.
I kept thinking about these nameless teenage phantoms and how desperate they must be to feel alive. To feel the thrill of adventure. I remember what it was to be fifteen: to be lit on fire with your own immortality, to want to set the whole world ablaze.
I kept thinking how unsatisfying all this destruction must be in the end, after the pumpkins have exploded and the trampoline has been dragged away and there is no mark left of you on these streets. Just a little less. Just the buzzing of absence and suburban silence.
And I have these two little boys. And for now, their grand adventures revolve around toads and turtles. At three, adventure is a trip down the slip-and-slide into the grass. It’s running across the frozen-solid pond, your arms spread wide.
But one day, they will be big. And I want them to find their adventure.
And I’m not talking about a specific place necessarily (Africa. The inner city. The “mission field.” – the place you live is just a place, after all. There are dishes to do there, too.) I don’t mean activities that make your heart pump faster and your adrenaline rush. This is not about skydiving or cliff jumping or hitchhiking across the country. It’s not about hype. It’s not about awesome photos.
What I want for my boys (for myself, for all of us) is for them to find that thing that makes them truly alive and to have the courage to do it.
Because city or suburb, “mission field” or mansion, life is hard. And it is so easy to beige-out and live half-alive. To settle for breaking things and people and dreams instead of building something risky and new. But if they can learn the lesson of the adventuring heart here, in suburbia, they can carry it anywhere, I think.
And when I tell them one day about the pain and the sadness and the violence, I will tell them that the only hope for a world that is not good, not right, not fair is those who are willing to live into a bigger story. A story about Wild Love and about Impossible Goodness and about a God who breaks us free.
And it won’t look the same for any two people. More often than not, it will look small. Barely noticeable to a world that has gotten so proficient at faking it.
But listen: you’ll know. You’ll feel your heart pumping big within your chest as you jump higher and higher. And there’s no safety net at the edges. There is nothing to catch you but grace.
But jump anyway. You’ll shake the whole world.
(image source – tyler tarver, creationswap)