Adventure in the Suburbs

by Addie

adventure

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)
 


30 Responses to “Adventure in the Suburbs”

  1. Renee Ronika February 7, 2013 at 12:20 am #

    You framed this beautifully–with the terror of having a leaping-off point sabotaged, to the eventual invitation to jump. The prose is precise, with details that keep you right there.

    I heard your Mama Heart here, and I reckon the Spirit of Papa God rushed through you with every word.

  2. Adele February 7, 2013 at 2:47 am #

    “There are dishes to do there, too.” I love this line, Addie. I’m going to use it as a mantra when I feel envious of the adventurous lives I assume other people have!

    • Addie Zierman February 10, 2013 at 7:54 am #

      I know! It was a freeing realization for me too when I first understood it. The mundane follows you, no matter how exciting of a place you go. It’s just part of it.

  3. settle February 7, 2013 at 5:14 am #

    This, I love.

  4. Joy Lenton February 7, 2013 at 5:49 am #

    Awesome, Addie. Beautiful prose exposing the beautiful truth of God’s Wild Love and the Great Adventure of following Him wherever it may lead us. Nothing is too small, inconsequential or ordinary that He doesn’t inhabit and fill with His grace. Jumping into God’s arms and saying “Yes” to all that He has for us is life’s greatest purpose. It’s what we are born to do. Thank you for this lovely word to refresh, challenge and encourage us to think Big when we live for His Kingdom, no matter what our physical circumstances might be.

  5. Matt Appling February 7, 2013 at 7:39 am #

    Awesome, Addie. I’m in the ‘burbs too. And I like it. I miss the color of the city. And I can see the disdain in peoples’ eyes when I tell them where I live (though I can also tell they’ve never visited, and possibly do not even know the geographical location of where I live.) And yes, even Christianity is thought to be *better* in the city.

    The problem is the same as those teenagers and the pumpkins. People are desperate for adventure. We cheer when Bilbo leaves his hobbit hole, because nothing in life could be worse than staying in your hobbit hole in hobbit suburbia. True living and faith is out there!

    • Addie Zierman February 10, 2013 at 7:56 am #

      Yes, I can relate to that feeling that “Christianity is thought to be *better* in the city.” There’s a stigma to living in the suburbs, this idea that you’ve somehow become a sellout. But faith is just faith, wherever you are. It’s hard no matter where you choose to practice it…just different kinds of hard.

      Thanks for the comment and the suburban solidarity. :)

  6. Katie @ cakes, tea and dreams February 7, 2013 at 8:12 am #

    Yes. I grew up in the suburbs too, and there can be real community and adventure there, as there can be anywhere. I love this, Addie.

  7. Jenn February 7, 2013 at 8:26 am #

    I love the juxtaposition of the trampoline with your last invitation to jump. Beautifully done.

    And thank you, thank you, thank you for the oh-so-important reminder that God is present everywhere. There are dishes to do there, too – yes! May we all learn how to love wildly and live fully right where we are.

    • Addie Zierman February 10, 2013 at 7:57 am #

      Love this note in your comment: “May we all learn how to love wildly and live fully right where we are.” Perfectly summed up. Thanks Jenn.

  8. Sarah Bessey February 7, 2013 at 9:11 am #

    *Standing slow clap*

  9. Lee Eclov February 7, 2013 at 9:12 am #

    This was a beautiful thing, which I will pass on to my son. But would it kill you to attribute the trampoline to “my favorite aunt and uncle” instead of “a relative.”

    • Addie Zierman February 10, 2013 at 7:58 am #

      What was I thinking? Clearly an oversight due to the late hour that I was writing this post. ;-) Thanks Uncle Lee.

  10. Pat February 7, 2013 at 9:28 am #

    Beautiful!!! Thanks for sharing.

  11. Diana February 7, 2013 at 9:43 am #

    Standing right beside Sarah, clapping. Thanks for this beauty, words that drip both joy and distress — just like life. And life is here in the suburbs, too. . . even the particularly wealthy and exclusive suburb in which God plunked us to live. Many people who live here may actually have someone else wash their dishes, but I gotta tell you, there is plenty of desperation and lots of lostness staring at us here, too. I’m a big believer in adventure – I just never, ever guessed ours would take us to this place at this end of our lives. (Sorry about the trampoline, Addie. And sorry the hooligans can’t find an adventure with more staying power than that.)

    • Addie Zierman February 10, 2013 at 8:01 am #

      Seriously. (I even left out the part where they came and snipped all of the outdoor lights I had strung in our bushes and along our deck. HOOLIGANS!) Glad I’m not alone in this suburban adventure. May we learn how to live fully alive in his love even here.

  12. HopefulLeigh February 7, 2013 at 1:26 pm #

    Amen, Addie. I loved growing up and living in the suburbs. Was faith hard-won there at times? Absolutely. But it was all the more beautiful because of that. After all, my suburban existence shaped me into the leap of faith kind of woman I am. Now, living in the city, I see it’s just as easy to get locked into habit and isolation. We have to be intentional no matter where we live.

    • Addie Zierman February 10, 2013 at 8:01 am #

      “We have to be intentional no matter where we live.” Amen. Thanks Leigh.

  13. Erika Morrison February 7, 2013 at 5:19 pm #

    You said it, Addie. Wow. Just so good. “Beige-out” is my new favorite expression.

    • Addie Zierman February 10, 2013 at 8:02 am #

      I think I may have read it somewhere and hijacked it, but I can’t remember where I heard it. It’s pretty awesome, right? (And thanks so much.)

  14. Paul February 7, 2013 at 9:49 pm #

    You’ve so put me in my place (in a great way) about the internal rage I feel about being stuck in the suburbs. Even as I sit here reading, I think about my neighbor right next door hurting and in need of love. While I may never really reconcile having to live here for now, I know that I need to be the hands and feet of Christ despite my surroundings.

    • Addie Zierman February 10, 2013 at 8:04 am #

      I’m sorry your feeling stuck (I can so relate. Not necessarily in the suburbs, but in other places I’ve lived.) For the record, I think it’s an incredible place to practice intentionality…when there’s such a pull to stay within your own house, isolated from one another. If you can learn the art of neighboring here, I think you can carry it with you anywhere. Just my two cents. (So glad this was helpful for you! Thanks for the comment!)

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