I have this internal practice of imagining the talks I would give if I was a conference speaker. It’s something I’ve been doing compulsively since my teenage years. I’ll just be going along my merry mental way when I suddenly wake to the realization that I’ve been giving a conference talk for the past 10 mind-minutes. It’s kind of bizarre except for the fact that I’m used to it by now and I’m sure everyone does things like this. Things like imagine the jokes you’d have to throw in to keep everyone engaged, or plan out how you’d tweak that one pastor’s sermon illustration, or prepare answers to interview questions you’ve never been asked…yet.
This idea is one of those. I’ve been mulling it over for the duration of El Niño but have pretty much refused to actually write it because, meh. It’s the idea of being dressed for where you’re going. My colleague and I were commiserating about this the other day, so I figured now was as good a time as any to share the abridged blog version of my imaginary conference talk:
I was born and raised in the Tarheel state, but have spent the past 4 years in Northern California ~ in The Bay Area. As RDU began to experience exponential residential growth, the running joke you’d hear to welcome newcomers was “If you don’t like the weather here, just wait 5 minutes…” *southern gut chuckle*
North Carolinians can watch the same forecast and be dressed for completely different seasons. Similarly, the Bay Area boasts, among a myriad of other things, ‘micro-climates’ and BART. BART is the transbay subway/above ground train system that can traipse you from Downtown San Francisco to the suburbs in the valley to Fremont if you have some reason to be there, to SFO to OAK and back again. On any given day ~ especially in the ‘summer’ there can be a 25 degree rain to sun to fog to clear blue sky difference between all of the various cities that make up the East Bay, let alone throwing San Francisco into the mix. What this means is that you can pull three folks from the same train car and one of them will be wearing rainboots and a puffy Patagonia vest, one will be decked out in Raider’s gear, but like, with shorts and a long sleeve shirt and sneakers, and I will be wearing a sherpa jacket with flip flops and carrying an umbrella.
Exhibit A: me three days ago
Living here has taught me to dress for where I am going. Here’s why: at some point in the day I am going to be uncomfortable, and I just have to deal with that reality. If I try to pack for all possible meteorological outcomes, I’m still going to be uncomfortable because I’m going to be carrying far too much baggage. Dressing for where I am going, as opposed to where I am (once it becomes evident that I am going somewhere) does something psychological that keeps me moving forward; keeps me from settling in the wrong location; keeps me from staying stuck. The visible incongruence reflects a deeper dissonance that can really serve as a gift if I let it.
Obviously, because I love Jesus and this is an imaginary conference talk, there is a spiritual parallel: I have to let God dress me for where I’m going because ultimately, only He knows. And if I spend too much time worrying about what other people will think about my flip flop and sherpa combination, I may miss the train altogether. And if I spend too much time wondering why someone is standing in the sun-drenched train stop of the valley in a Patagonia vest and Wellies, I become the kind of person who judges someone else without knowing where they came from or where they are going. Having worked in the city several times, I can attest to you that the 10 minutes of stares and discomfort of a sun-drenched train stop in the East Bay are worth it if it means that you stay warm and dry in the foggy, misty, city all day.
So I am learning to be still while God tailors my armor, and keep my eyes fixated North. I am learning to accept the fact that the sky does what it wants, and just deciding to dress for a season I’m not in doesn’t make that season come any faster. I am learning to navigate the calculated risk of walking to work in the rain wearing flip flops because something in me knows that I can no longer withstand the claustrophobia of keeping my toes confined in Kamiks.
And sometimes, my calculated risk seems ridiculous and the rain never actually lets up and dang-it I should have worn the bigger jacket after all because now the transfer is late and I have to wait on an outdoor platform as opposed to being nestled underground. But you know what happens? Life goes on. The journey continues. Mercies are new every morning.
A person’s steps are directed by the LORD. How then can anyone understand their own way? *