3. The Limits of Longing
Most of my life, I've been the girl who makes the right choice. Or maybe, just the safest choice.
Sometimes, I want to make the wrong choice and live in the consequences. Kiss the boy I shouldn't kiss. Take the trip when I should be saving for a house, or paying off that loan.
This is my selfishness. I know that maturity means feeding fewer of my desires and choosing others instead. Pursuing humility when it would be easier to indulge my pride and vanity. Continual self-denial is the narrow gate Jesus spoke of in Matthew. Abnegation. Negating myself.
But living this way has made my life too safe. It's muzzled the sharing of my thoughts, opinions, the deepest parts of myself. To be vulnerable means not letting others' thoughts shame you.
Releasing shame's grip means you find yourself perched atop a volcano in Hawaii before dawn pinkens the sky. Crawling behind waterfalls in the mountains of North Carolina. Asking the Yemeni guy at the car dealership if he knows about Jesus, and not fearing the anger that clouds his face. You kiss the boy with stars tattooed between his shoulders. You let yourself feel as much as you can bear without tumbling into total self-destruction.
Maybe the narrow gate is really a balance beam. It's resting in the tension between Psalm 56:11 and Galatians 5:22-23.
I may not always make the "right" choice. There is a difference between self-control and fear that holds you captive. Putting others first will never be a fruitless endeavor, even if the rewards are invisible. But taking risks expands you. It creates room in your head for more dreams — dreams that might become real, because now you are a little less afraid. Choosing to be courageous shows you how to do the necessary work to manifest your heart's deepest desires. The balancing act lies in discerning which desires lead to mutual flourishing, and which ones cultivate deeper entrenched selfishness.
Perhaps it's best to close with Rilke. Rilke is always a good choice.
God speaks to each of us as he makes us,
then walks with us silently out of the night.
These are the words we dimly hear:
You, sent out beyond your recall,
go to the limits of your longing.
Flare up like a flame
and make big shadows I can move in.
Let everything happen to you: beauty and terror.
Just keep going. No feeling is final.
Don’t let yourself lose me.
Nearby is the country they call life.
You will know it by its seriousness.
Give me your hand.
— Book of Hours, I 59 Translated by Joanna Macy & Anita Barrows