catapult magazine

catapult magazine

Vol 4, Num 5 :: 2005.03.11 — 2005.03.24


The great unknown

Sometime in junior high, I had a dream. I was underwater, marveling at the glitter of the bright sunshine shimmering through the waves, and then there was the flash of a speedboat motor, a rush of bubbles and I was dead. The number 14 appeared and I knew then: I would die in a boating accident when I was fourteen.

I don?t know where this dream came from or what purpose it served. I won?t deny that the thought of death by boat did enter my mind a few times during vacations the year that was supposed to be my last, but the fear was fleeting and I regarded my apprehension as mere superstition. Why, then, do other fears much more tame than death take hold so easily and claim power over me?

Perhaps it was the specificity of my dream that, in a way, comforted me. I sensed my complete inability to avoid the exact situation I had seen so clearly and I knew that it would all make sense when I saw that glimmering water from below. I would know what was going to happen next and there would be nothing I could do to stop it. If the source of the vision had not gifted me with ignorance, at least it had given me certainty.

Uncertainty and the inability to control the direction of my life give me much more cause for fear these days than death does. I feel pressure to choose tomorrow what my ?things? will be, what will fill the blank behind ?I am?? in all the categories I can imagine: leisure, sport, church, work, community, arts, family, etc. And I?m afraid the inability to pin down who I Am will lead to a picked-at life, when all is said and done, that the one thing I was made for will be relegated to a small, insignificant dish on an overwhelming buffet.

But then I am reminded of the Belle and Sebastian song: ?If I could do just one near perfect thing, I?d be happy. They?d write it on my grave or when they scatter my ashes. On second thought, I?d rather hang around and be there with my best friend if she wants me.? In their quaint, pop-rock way, they remind us that putting all of our time and energy into one thing will be an investment that only matures for a brief moment after we?re already dead. They?re attempting to answer one of life?s biggest questions: What am I here for?

The Westminster Shorter Catechism?s answer to this question is not far from Belle and Sebastian?s, if you accept the idea that we experience God through community: ?Man?s chief end is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever.? These seem like very abstract instructions for flesh-and-blood human beings, but the good news for those who are frustrated by the ambiguity is the expectancy of forever.

Occasionally, I remember to take the promise of eternity seriously. I remember that we are in possession of the hope that the good things of this earth will last when the Kingdom comes, when the time between birth and death will no longer be the limited frame of our experiences. However, we are in-between people whose present time is heavy with a unique struggle in which a longing for the future is only a temporary refreshment. If we want to answer the question of purpose, we must paradoxically begin to choose now. We are co-creators, not just of the earth, but of our own stories. With attentiveness to God in community, we choose our own adventures. And that ability is, believe it or not, the gift of a loving Creator.

Perhaps the consequences of choice are what we ultimately fear more than uncertainty itself, because instead of calling the game a draw on account of some inherent flaw in humanity itself, we are faced with the possibility of owning our own failure. I guess we make a choice whether we want to or not, between intentional risk and unintentional boredom.

Another dream that has stuck with me from my younger years had to do with a game of hide-and-seek?not just any ordinary game, mind you, but one in which the ?seeker? was a witch! Having picked the most uncreative hiding place of all (I was sleeping, remember), I huddled under my bed and planned for the moment of the finding. When her green face finally appeared under the dust ruffle and her beady eyes connected with mine, I said, ?My name is Kirstin. Would you like to be friends?? Somehow, in my nightmare, I had managed to choose against the fear that something unspeakably horrible would happen to me when I was found.

Her triumphant sneer softened?and that was the end.

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