I have spent years of my life seeking out ways to enter into mystery and adventure. My first adventures were in religion and in reading fiction. Years later I left home to attend boarding school. Another call took me to the seminary. I traveled to Guatemala to immerse myself in Spanish. After the priesthood, social work gave me the opportunity for countless adventures. I finished writing my book. I traveled through Europe, Southeast Asia, South America, and Central America with my wife. This was followed be a return to school and the challenge of multivariate calculus as I neared forty. After finishing school for the third time, maybe my time for mystery and adventure was over.
Now I go to work each day from 8:30 to 5. I help change diapers and cook dinners for a two and a half year old and a one year old. Grocery store trips and potty breaks are my most common weekend activities. Travel shows help put my one year old to sleep. I am 41 and have other people and practical concerns which need to be focused on. Rent and health-care premiums preoccupy me. Any trip involving plane fare may not be in the cards for a while.
Today I realized the perspective I gave in that last paragraph is nonsense.
Watching my boy grow up for two and a half years has finally pressed through onto my consciousness that he is a mystery perhaps more intoxicating than any I have known. Even though his body is not full grown and his experience of the world is limited, he has ideas and desires of his own. God’s path for him is already twisting and turning in directions toward destinations unknown and beyond my control.
Yesterday, I said to him 3,000 times, “Be careful” as he raced about the house playing ball and climbing onto his stool to wash dishes. After one trip down the sledding hill, he was begging me, “All the way. WAY UP THERE, this time daddy.” His little boots slipped on the slippery snow. He rolled to the side a little as he lay in the snow and smiled at me. I DID take him up higher the second time.
I admonished him to be careful as I pulled on his pants while he did his best impersonation of a trout pulled from a raging river. This little wiggling and writhing game had already garnered him one rough fall and a head smacked on the floor when he lost his balance with two tiny feet stuck in the bottom of his pj’s. Why did he say he didn’t need to go potty and then promptly wet his pants.
My expectation that this shouldn’t happen anymore was ruining a little sliver of my day with him. Just underneath the skin my stomach churned. A tangle of frustration and anger flooded me as I looked into my little boys blue eyes. At that moment, he saw his one year old brother climbing toward the edge of the couch and sprinted over to protect him. “Be careful, Bubba. This is too high. You can fall and bust your coconut.” He waved his little hand in front of his brother showing him he should back up. What do you do with that?
He is a mystery. A human miniature of love, desire, will and community. He is a mystery- something that had always thrilled my soul. Another piece clicked into place. Hadn’t he always thrilled my soul? From the day of his birth, riding with him in the ambulance to the downtown NICU, my heart thrilled with the reality of his fragile little life. I am immersed with him in our little family 24 hours a day. No pilgrimage required. No determined meditation needed to open myself and prepare for the encounter. He chases after me. He wakes up when the first rays of the sun push over the horizon and start to light his room. At that moment, he comes in to wake me. “Dad, it’s morning.” No fear of missing the appointed hour of meeting the beloved in prayer. The prayer seeks me out. “Dad, come play with me.” My heart thrills.
I think it is time.
Time to stop telling him to be careful.
Time for me to stop being careful.
Time to do what I have disciplined myself for and practiced doing for decades.
Time to stop holding back and let go.
Time to fall into the mystery.
Time to be swallowed by love and thrill in the presence of the familiar little mystery that is always seeking me.