The ancient Druids are said to have taken a special interest in in-between things like mistletoe, which is neither quite a plant nor quite a tree, and mist, which is neither quite rain nor quite air, and dreams which are neither quite waking nor quite sleep. They believed that in such things as those they were able to glimpse the mystery of two worlds at once. Adolescents can have the same glimpse by looking in the full-length mirror on back of the bathroom door. The opaque glance and the pimples. The fancy new nakedness they’re all dressed up in with no place to go. The eyes full of secrets they have a strong hunch everybody is on to. The shadowed brow. Being not quite a child and not quite a grown-up either is hard work, and they look it. Living in two worlds at once is no picnic. ~~~Frederich Buechner, Whistling in the Dark
~~~Frederich Buechner, Whistling in the Dark
This past Sunday at church we celebrated our annual High School Senior Recognition event, where we recognize those high school seniors at St. Peter’s that desire to participate. Most I know to some extent, some more than others depending upon those activities in which they have participated. But no matter the relationship, I always find it fascinating to have conversations with these young men and women who are poised to set off into the world, somewhat on their own … either in college or trade school or at a place of employment. It is interesting to hear what they are excited about, what they are nervous about, and what they think their futures might hold for them.
When I think about our seniors, Buechner’s words come to mind. I have read these words often, and occasionally shared them with teens and adults. This image of living “between two worlds” is such an apt description of what this time of life is for these young folks. Wanting to leave home, but missing it — desiring independence, but being a bit frightened by it — craving the freedom to make their own choices, but nervous about choosing well. It is a time in life that most of us would not want to repeat. However well spoken and poised our youth are when they chat with you … and no matter the strong and confident face they offer to the world … this is a clumsy time in life. Think of it … have you ever tried to straddle two worlds? Your legs constantly want to slip out from under you as the world‘s drift apart. It is awkwardness personified.
This day also always allows me to do some self-examination, and try to respond to Buechner’s implied challenge to scrutinize those places in life where we have yet to escape our adolescence. Most of us have a few places, if we are honest. Maybe it is that new sports car we just have to have, even though it is horribly impractical. Maybe it is the relationship that we can’t quite find the courage to clarify by either deepening it or severing it. Maybe it is the petty grudges we hold against others which more resemble a high school friendship than an adult one. At times, and for some people the period of life called “the midlife crisis” is a time when these kinds of issues take on monumental proportion and bring with them accompanying consequences. When I have been with people who claim they are in mid-life crises, I am reminded of being with an adolescent. It can be a little scary for both of us.
So I invite you in your prayer life this week, to think about those places where your life is characterized by trying to stand in two worlds. Is the cause of this awkwardness truly something you cannot control, or does it reflect a less than mature approach to the situation? Think of those places where your life is truly actualized and the two worlds have come together nicely, and think about what makes those places in life different. We can never create perfectly mature approaches to every situation in our lives. But maybe we can visit one or two sticky spots in our lives and seek resolution. It is a holy calling and a worthwhile quest. I’ll pray for you in the challenge; would you do the same for me?