When I was in college, it always irritated me when people would comment, “These are the best days of your life! Enjoy them!” I definitely loved my college years, but it was as if people expected life to suddenly stop being exciting once I graduated. This common belief that you better make the most of your college days because then the real work begins doesn’t help college graduates transition to the “real world.”
As I am reading Madeleine L’Engle’s A Circle of Quiet, this sentence struck me:
“There’s the need for adventure; we’re not providing legitimate adventure for any of them… so they seek adventure illegitimately.”
Although L’Engle is discussing raising children and wondering why they seek security and pleasure in the wrong places, how true is this for adults too? We often don’t view life as an adventure. We don’t realize that we get to play a part in this grand experience.
This same adventure is true of love. L’Engle tells a story about how many of the high school students in her town would come to the library to ask her questions about life and love. In response, she’d ask them two sets of questions. First:
“I ask the boy and girl how work is going: Are you functioning at a better level than usual? Do you find that you are getting more work done in less time? If you are, then I think that you can trust this love. If you find that you can’t work well, that you’re functioning under par, then I think something may be wrong.”
“The other question I would ask my “children” is: what about your relations with the rest of the world? It’s all right in the very beginning for you to be the only two people in the world, but after that your ability to love should become greater and greater. If you find that you love lots more people than you ever did before, then I think that you can trust this love. If you find that you need to be exclusive, that you don’t like being around other people, then I think that something may be wrong.”
And so this brings me to my own adventure and my own marriage.
When John and I were going through pre-marital counseling, our pastor asked us if we have the tendency to look inward toward ourselves or outwards to others. If you only look outwards and where you’re headed, you’ll be walking side by side but never face each other. If you only look inwards and how your relationship is doing, you’ll be looking into each other’s eyes but never moving forward toward a mission greater than yourselves.
As L’Engle suggests, by simultaneously looking toward your own pursuits and assessing how well you love others, you can get a good reading of your relationship. Therefore, I’m grateful that I have the tendency to look inward and that John’s strength is encouraging us to move outward.
Whether you’re married or not, what side do you tend to fall on: looking inward or looking outward? We all need both sides but it’s helpful to know what area you could stretch yourself.
I see this come into play for John and me when we give each other space to live out the adventure we’re been called to individually. For me right now, that means working hard on my coaching companies before I start my doctorate, as well as setting myself up for success by reading some of my coursework ahead of time. Because John supports my personal adventure, I feel the freedom to work towards these goals.
Not to say that I don’t sometimes feel guilty for pursuing an individual adventure right now and letting John serve me by doing the dishes or vacuuming the house. I want everything to be “fair” and for chores to be divided perfectly even. Yet I think this tendency is more because I want to feel like I’m living my roles of wife, business owner, friend, and neighbor perfectly and be able to point to evidence.
Instead, this ongoing balance of living an inward and an outward adventure is just that: a balance that is sometimes tipped more in one direction and sometimes tipped more in the other. The important part is that in the overall scheme of life, it’s more or less in balance.
Which is why I’m also very grateful for the Memorial Day that we had, which John largely organized. By inviting our church’s community group and our nearby neighbors, who in turn invited their friends and more neighbors, we gathered about 30 people in the park for a Memorial Day BBQ.
We grilled out and enjoyed catching up with everyone. We were about ready to play Bocce ball, frisbee, football etc. when the rain started. So all of us piled under a small tent that’d been set up… talk about bonding with your neighbors! We waited for about 45 minutes, hoping the rain would pass through, which gave us lots of time to laugh and tell stories. Unfortunately the rain wasn’t moving so we had to pack up early, but everyone said they wanted to have another BBQ soon.
I suppose even when the day isn’t according to plan, this is all part of the adventure too… and because of John’s and my commitment to not take ourselves too seriously we really enjoyed the unexpected adventure!
So I’ll ask you: Are you living an adventure? Have you reflected inwardly on what personal adventure you are drawn toward? If you’re married, have you reflected on your relationship with your spouse?
And what about your outward focus – are you living a life of purpose and intention for others? Is the circle of those you love growing bigger?