This is the way it feels:
1. Something very big and exciting is going to happen. Something I’ve never experienced before. Something mildly dangerous and fairly arduous, but in a thrilling kind of way.
Like a white-water-rafting/rappelling/gun-shooting sort of camping trip. (…which I *have* done, actually, but…you know.)
2. Since I’ve never done this, I’m going to need to buy tons of new equipment. About which I also know very little, which means that
3. lots of research is in order. What kind of tent will I need? What fancy stuff is worth the money, what isn’t, and what is the absolutely-essential, don’t-even-think-of-setting-off-without-it gear? And how does it all work, anyway?
4. A bunch of new skills will have to be learned in preparation. True, a lot of it I’ll learn in the doing, but I’d better have at least some idea of which end of the paddle to hold onto and how to maintain my balance on the raft before I climb in and strap on my helmet. Not a lot of time to figure it out when facing a swiftly-advancing, class 4 rapid…
Up to this point, what’s about to happen doesn’t seem too terribly different from preparing for any major life change or exciting new adventure several steps outside my comfort zone. My husband and I will spend lots of time preparing, some amount of intense, enjoyable, and mildly terrifying time experiencing the actual event, and then go back to our normal lives. With lots of pictures to prove we did it and the ability to finally contribute to those conversations of derring-do at cocktail parties. (You know — where everyone talks about their own white-water-rafting/rappelling/gun-shooting camping trips. Like you do.)
What I simply cannot get my brain around — and yet know with certainty — is that this new adventure is going to be NOTHING LIKE THAT. There will be no going back to our normal lives.
I have a very strong conviction there will be no going back to our normal selves.
How in the world do you prepare for that? I can anticipate (in the abstract) joy and fear and exhilaration and pain, but I can’t prepare for having my whole life turned upside down or being made into a new creation: somehow still “me”, but also a million miles from the me-that-was. I’ve seen this change in my girlfriends, but especially in my sisters, with whom I’m close enough and whom I’ve known long enough to really sense the depth of the change.
It’s not just that their lives are lived according to a very different rhythm now, focusing on new tasks and deftly performing skills they didn’t use to possess. They themselves have been transformed — from “women” to “mothers”. In a lot of ways, this seems to me like the most mysterious and unfathomable transformation there is on the natural level. Maybe the simplest way to put it is that they go from people with an average range of preferences and interests and habits that suit them and give them enjoyment — in other words, possessing an average amount of self-centered bias — to being so fully dedicated to the good of certain other small persons that they would literally walk through fire to give them comfort. They become heroic.
I know this transformation is not immediate, and it is inherently bound up in the experience of pain and struggle and sacrifice. It’s precisely out of those things that the transformation occurs, and makes them more than just women with a nifty new set of skills. It is the perfect earthly example of resurrection by way of the cross. The struggle can often be a joyful one and the sacrifices occasionally easy. And often they’re painful and come at a real internal cost. It’s a process that fills me with awe and makes me very aware of my own insufficiency and dependence on grace.
And then I’m suddenly reminded of how very simple and homely the process is, too. Right now, my little harbinger of transformation and bundle of mystery has the hiccups.