Wanderlust, Flights of Fancy, and the Goodness of God
From a post from my younger brother:
I have a confession to make. A lot of my fantasies don’t turn out that great. Throughout middle school (and even high school), I always wanted to run away from home. Did I have a terrible home life and parents who beat me? No, in fact I had a great high school experience of being involved after a bad middle school experience of being excluded. I wasn’t running from something—I was running to it.
Here was the vision. Leave in the middle of the night with a wonderful note to my family explaining everything, fly a helicopter made out of Popular Science magazine (the kit cost $195), take beef jerky and rations for 6 months to a year, fly into the deep forest and crash land my plane, read a lot of books and learn another language, lift logs in order to build a shelter, come back with a beard, tanned, and to the amazement of those who saw how fit I was, deeper, wiser, and more self-fulfilled. . . .
OK, so it was a combination of self-indulgent fantasy, one too many Gary Paulsen Hatchet books, and an immature romanticism. Mark Twain wrote poignantly of the difference between theory and reality in Life on the Mississippi. The Mississippi was better when it was mysterious and imaginative to the rough kid rather than scientific and dissectable to the seasoned gentleman pilot.
So it was with my adventure. Feeling overwhelmed with school, I almost got away in the night only to have a friend tell my parents what I was up to. They sent me with some harsh words, forgiveness, and $20 to Applebee’s for milkshakes with my brother and sister.
In college in New York, I again caught that bug and traveled several hours upstate to probably one of the remotest places I found with wildly labyrinthine roads to a friend’s cabin–it was in the middle of nowhere. Now I’m from Iowa so I don’t use that phrase lightly. My goals were more modest: read a few novels, commune with God, be one with nature for three days.
What happened? Darn Reality raised her ugly head with knowing spectacles, furrowed brows, and the ol’ school marm hairdo. The forest was magnificent but the black mosquitoes swarmed in my eyes, ears, and even tickled the back of my throat making it nearly unbearable. Knowing that if there was a bear, that would be the end of me, my tough guy Grizzly Adams, Nebuchadnezzar, Crocodile Dundee persona faded into Timmy the Pampered looking for mother. In the river, I slipped on a mossy rock and gravity, another rock, and my head made for a perfect storm of pain. At night, an eerie mounted deer head and the darkest black (yes, I have never ever seen pitch black like it), made my all-too-tiny heart palpitate. Velvet black air combined with weird visions of the curtains being drawn back and a hand coming in at the window. I couldn’t see my hand in front of my face, but I could hear one. Was it my imagination? No—it was real! I was not alone in the room.The footsteps and the presence came closer as I frantically struggled to light the lantern to discover him there in the room as we were miles and miles from any living soul if he indeed had one…
A mouse. What would be the worst thing that could happen? Well, I suppose getting a few scampering fleshy pink feet up the old groin would be fairly uncomfortable. MacGyver-like, I filled a bucket with three inches of water, a board leading up to it, and a swab of peanut butter just inside the bucket. Ten minutes later, I heard a ‘splash,’ followed by thirty seconds of struggle, and then silence. I felt guilty all night.
It is good to be able to look back and smile at our flights of fancy and our foibles.
But it also made me think of this C. S. Lewis quote on Ray Ortlund’s blog:
I think one may be quite rid of the old haunting suspicion—which raises its head in every temptation—that there is something else than God, some other country into which he forbids us to trespass, some kind of delight which he ‘doesn’t appreciate’ or just chooses to forbid, but which would be real delight if only we were allowed to get it.
The thing just isn’t there. Whatever we desire is either what God is trying to give us as quickly as he can, or else a false picture of what he is trying to give us, a false picture which would not attract us for a moment if we saw the real thing. . . . He knows what we want, even in our vilest acts. He is longing to give it to us. . . .
The truth is that evil is not a real thing at all, like God. It is simply good spoiled. . . . You know what the biologists mean by a parasite—an animal that lives on another animal. Evil is a parasite. It is there only because good is there for it to spoil and confuse.
—C. S. Lewis, They Stand Together: The Letters of C. S. Lewis to Arthur Greeves (1914-1963), ed. Walter Hooper (New York, 1979), p. 465. Italics original.