Trotty-trot to Boston
Trotty-trot to Lynn
The horse got to Boston
But Baby fell in!
–a knee-bouncing rhyme from my childhood
Sage loves to be bounced. I think most babies do; I’ve seen other people bounce their babies way more than I would feel comfortable bouncing Sage (I’m a tad bit overprotective with her physical safety at times), and the babies laugh and squeal with delight. If you stop bouncing Sage, she’ll try to bounce herself on your knee. She also loves to be spun around, twirled, dipped, and pretty much anything else that involves either fast, high, or tilted.
I’ve joked that when she’s old enough, she’ll be my roller coaster buddy.
I love roller coasters. I love them to death. I love the feeling of being whipped around an upside-down at high speeds. I haven’t been on a roller coaster in years and years; the last time I was at any kind of theme park was when I was in college, and that was, oh, before the current millennium.
However, I hate turbulence on planes.
(Hold that thought for a moment while I digress.)
A brilliant improv teacher once said that when you do improv, you should have the same feeling that you get when you stand on the edge of a drop-off and lean forward as far as you can. That feeling that at any second it could go horribly awry. Your effort keeps you where you are; your adrenaline is ramped up; and when you’re done you’re exhausted and potentially giddy.
I’ve tried to do more and more improv this way, and I love it when I can take those risks.
However, I hate having that same feeling in conversation with friends and family.
So what is it that lets me enjoy being out of control in some situations, but to dread it so much in other situations?
I went back to thinking about Sage for this. She has a good time when she’s being spun around and turned upside-down and all that because she trusts that she is safe. It’s not even a conscious thing; she just has no reason to think that she’s in danger, so she can just enjoy the experience.
I trust roller coasters more than I trust airplanes, I guess. I know that’s probably not sensible, although I refuse to look up the statistics for fear that it will take all the joy out of roller coasters for me. I think it’s that roller coasters are supposed to make you feel danger when they’re constructed to be safe, whereas planes are supposed to get you from point A to point B and the feeling of danger is just an unfortunate side effect.
And I trust myself in improv — and my teammates, and the audience — because improv is an art form that is designed around acceptance and forgiveness. I don’t trust myself to have dangerous conversations in real life because in real life people don’t forgive or accept anywhere near as easily as they do when you’re doing improv.
When friends of mine post inspirational stuff on Facebook that talks about resilience and persistence — things like, “It doesn’t matter how many times they knock you down, as long as you get back up” or “Shoot for the moon; even if you miss, you’ll land among the stars,” I always feel like I’m the guy in the back of the room raising a hand to say, “Wouldn’t it be better if we figured out how to avoid getting knocked down so that we could make more direct progress toward our goal? And has anyone actually at least plotted the route to the moon so that we’re not risking the whole Lost in Space scenario?”
I like the feeling of taking the risk, and I don’t mind failing at times. (I need to fail more, actually.) But I believe in calculated risks. Don’t just leap out of a tree — look for the soft spot to land. Don’t just dive into the lake — make sure it’s deep enough for diving. Don’t just pet the stray dog — and, actually, there’s no corollary to that. That’s dangerous.
But the ultimate point, I think, is that there are times where we’re really not the one who has a choice about being in control. There are times when we’re being spun around, bounced, twirled upside-down, and it’s completely out of our hands.
Personally, I believe in a God who has a plan. It may not be what I want, but I do believe that His plan is best, and also that I may have no idea what that plan is. Many other Christians I’ve met would suggest that if I feel like things are out of control… shouldn’t I be making my best attempt to trust, and to enjoy the ride where I can? Theoretically, yes… except that since God’s plan might involve a great deal of suffering on my part, and knowing that my suffering might serve a greater good doesn’t make me any more excited to go through it. Sometimes the ride isn’t just bounce-bounce-bounce-whee. Sometimes it’s more like being catapulted while blindfolded. That’s not a ride I would enjoy.
I know I’ve been taught to trust Him, because He cares for me and has my best interests at heart… but I’ve seen enough people suffer to know that His caring for me doesn’t give me any kind of immunity.
I think I’ve just reduced this to the ancient theological puzzle: if God is all-knowing, all-powerful, and supremely good… why is there suffering?
I get really, really angry when Christians say that all you have to do is trust God and things will all turn out okay. I think plenty of true believers in the midst of deadly diseases or wars or poverty would think otherwise.
To those Christians, I guess I would say this… optimism is not the same as faith in God. Cheeriness is not the same as the peace that passes understanding. I do believe in God and in His plan, even though I don’t know what that means for me and for my family.
I’m going to get onto His plane, despite the fear of turbulence, because even if we crash and burn and die, I believe in HIM. But when a wing falls off, don’t tell me that we’ll all make our connecting flights because God’s the pilot.
I don’t mind being out of control, to an extent. But if I can’t personally find a reason to believe that things will be okay, don’t ask me to act like I’m fine just because I believe in God. Even Jesus asked for his fate to be taken away.