My lungs gulp in the fresh air and their melody of thanks release inside my ribs. I stare up at the towering evergreens surrounding me on all sides of our little plot of land and suddenly my sanity returns and surrender comes naturally. The trees around me reach down from above, their limbs offer me perspective I didn’t have just minutes ago. When I’m outside with the animals and a patch of sky and the dirt beneath my feet, my soul feels seen and validated. It doesn’t make sense to my rational mind. Why do I feel most encouraged when I’m nearest the earth? How is it possible to be inspired when nothing around can offer me any audible words of encouragement? But outside the walls, beyond these boundary lines I’ve laid down for myself, I sense my truest parts come out of hiding.
Today, like many days, I tried to screw the lid on my life, careful to not let its contents bust open all over me. I innocently asked God for an orderly day, for smooth and succinct plans to unfold perfectly within the confines of my calendar. Rarely, if ever, does he answer that prayer, but it’s worth a shot! Most of life doesn’t fit inside the clean canisters, it spills over the edges with no regard for our perfect pouring skills.
Our days are messy and explosive, try as I might I cannot tackle them to the ground and force them to conform to my mainly selfish desires.
Instead I have stand back in awe- this is not what I thought it would be, and yet everything I needed.
Excessive amounts of energy and worry go into keeping life under our control. It’s like every day I tie a leash around the neck of my day, making sure it doesn’t run away without my knowing. But it always does. One hundred percent of the time, life surprises me. It doesn’t take but a few minutes for the leash to break and I’m left breathless. Panting for oxygen, I chase after it like one of our flappy, flightless, spastic chickens. It runs this way and that, never in a straight line.
Of course, it doesn’t take much for my allusion of control to be completely obliterated. My kids run through the house with their muddy feet in the morning, the dog digs in my flower bed at noon, the dinner doesn’t turn out that night. Morning, noon, and night.
Consistently scattered throughout my day are subtle, often annoying, reminders this life is more than I can manage with my own two hands.
The landscape of my marriage follows suit. It is far from smooth and serene. There are more potholes and landmines hidden amongst the roses than I’d ever hoped. Underneath our romance lies a bewildering, unkempt world, a mashup of one another’s pasts and expectations and personalities. My husband wants to have time to himself and I always want more of him. The mystery of love devours us as we look for formulas, a simple answer to our constant issues. Hurt and bewildered, there is no way to navigate the tricky terrain of an intimate relationship with merely a guidebook or a good sermon. However, I’ve noticed the best marriages are unruly things, they don’t follow predictable patterns and refuse to follow the rules of a straightforward, simple relationship.
My own soul is also a deep cave. I get lost inside it without at least a little light and even then it’s questionable whether I will find my way. Every morning at the same time I lay out my journal, my pen, and my prayers for spiritual transformation. My tools for soul excavation are lined up neatly, as if I can merely finagle my way into heart change. My determination and devotion to pay attention to my inner world always come up short. I gain hope and freedom in one area, only to unearth a dark corner in need of healing in another area. The complexities are endless, and they exhaust me if I’m not careful. Alas, the dog needs his breakfast and I accept the mundane interruption to my early morning spiritual quest.
Our sweet pup stretches out of his bed and then always finds a way to wipe his wet nose on me before doing anything else. He is affectionate and forgiving from the moment he wakes. Yet every day I can’t help but ask myself- why did we bring him home? We are not the dog type of people and it became all the more obvious his first day with us. The jumping and biting and shedding and poop in the yard. As if we needed more of this unwieldy kind of work. The licking and drooling and chasing cats and kids feels anything but domesticated. Dogs are adorable, disgusting, and disruptive. I wish I could kennel him up and not feel bad about it. But I digress, he happily runs through our yard, waits and watches at our windows, accompanies us on the porch, and naps on my front door mat. Life remains happily off-kilter with a dog eating gross things in our yard and then licking my sweet baby on the face before I have a chance to bat his tongue away. What am I to do? I could put him on a chain, restrict his freedom, give him away. All of these are possible, but I just can’t to do it.
You can probably guess my favorite part of the day. Bath time. My husband and I are still recovering twice-a-day-shower takers. I blame my habit on him. Before we married, I was content with one shower a day, totally fine to throw on my jammies and let a days worth of grime sleep with me until morning. But now, with gardens, chickens, cats, dogs, and four children with permanent dirt under their nails, I can hardly wait to throw everyone under a stream of steaming hot water. I admit, a clean child, who doesn’t smell of slugs and earth is much easier for me to hug and hold.
Why must it be so? I sink into sadness at the mere thought of my disdain for life’s messes and dirt and general sense of wildness.
Why is it so difficult for me to smother my children with kisses after they’ve cared for the chickens or petted the dog? Why can’t I let my kitchen sink hold dishes for longer than a few minutes? Why don’t I walk barefoot in the grass or let my hair fall over my shoulders more often? Why don’t I try the new thing or take the step into the unknown or stay up late dreaming up impossibilities? Why do I constantly nag and push and manipulate everyone I love to fit into plans and personality?
Why do we avoid the wild?
I think it’s because we wrongly assume, and are tempted to believe, that life is better when we can control it, keep it clean. But, when we gather the momentum and the guts to kick the walls down that keep us uptight and stingy, and spend intentional time cultivating the wild life, we soon realize this is where we come alive.
God waits for us to take the hints and follow the clues. He is forever wooing us into the wild life through wet dog kisses, slug slime fingers, or towering trees. He can’t wait for us to unearth the possibilities outside the confines of our comfort zones.
Pursuing a wild life isn’t something our culture knows how to do or encourages us in. Everywhere I turn, I see another way we can brand and box up and keep our beauty and creativity contained and measurable, and more importantly, profitable.
We fall for strategies and tend towards the trends, and steer our lives with stubbornness until we’ve all but forgotten what it means to run wild… on purpose.
Before you go…a note about The Pursuit of a Wild Life project.
By wild I do not mean a wreckless, savage, annihilate everything in your path kind of wild. But the wild that rescues us from a definitive, dualistic way of thinking, living, and being in the world. I have no doubt, God must woo us into this wild life because few of us would choose it on our own. Sometimes it’s our theology, other times it’s our season, or the circumstances that try to flatten our life, pound it thin life a wafer, drain it of all flavor. But the cry remains because all of us were made for the wild places.
I am bothered by how much this world tries to tame me, dull my senses, and bring me indoors, onto screens and sofas and settling for merely a sense of community instead of the real thing. I’ve given into these cramped up conditions a few times and each time its nearly killed me. There’s no room to explore, to try and fail, to grow at my own pace, or follow the Spirit’s wind beckoning me to step outside of what I’ve always known.
I know The Pursuit of a Wild Life Project will look different for each of us. But a few things I hope it inspires us to do is to:
start or continue to embrace adventure in our season
give ourselves and others space and time to change and grow
accept the ups and downs and ebbs and flows as beautiful and necessary to becoming free
open your hands a little wider, relinquishing control of our days and our dreams
choose outdoors over indoors, tall trees and mountains over screens and sitting, the unexplored over the familiar
welcome and expect the unexplained and the surprises
practice what I like to call an undomesticated kind of trust in our relationship with God
say yes to things that don’t always make logical sense
experience God in new ways
I’d love for you to join me here each week as I share words to accompany you on your own Wild Life Project over the next few months!