The Esses

I am finally understanding myself after all these years. I came up in a safe world, the prosperous post-war years, a small town where everyone knew me, a church whose members fit my first pair of shoes and helped cut ivy for my wedding. No parents in the world were more stable than Ray and Lucille Hardy. In my home there was structure, there was a schedule, there was security.

My parents bought a little house after the war, and now that they are both deceased, I own that home. My father’s ancestors bought land in Kemper County in 1850. They are all gone now, and I own a parcel of that land, too. I hold in my possession things that are old and treasured, things that gave life and shelter, things that reflect stability and security.

No wonder I have a hard time with change. With letting go of old things. When I left my daddy’s home and entered young adulthood, life gave me change. Every few years, I moved, jobs changed, houses changed, children came, children left. Then a gnawing feeling in my gut grew stronger. I wanted to put down some roots. I wanted to stay somewhere for a long time, for the rest of my life. I wanted what my parents had. I wanted stability and security.

My husband and I bought our newly built house in 1995. This week marks the 15th anniversary — I’ve lived here longer than any other place, except at 807 Deering, the house I grew up in.

I am finally realizing, however, that life is not made of stability. Life is dynamic. It is filled with choices. I can make changes any time I choose to. Most of the time, I choose not to. But then there are those changes that come unexpectedly, that just flat knock you off your feet and pull the ground out from under you. You have no choice. They slam you, and you’re into this whirlwind, and you’re caught up for the ride of your life. You grope for solid ground to fix your feet on, and it’s not there.

There is no such thing as security. People are torn away from you, jobs, even houses that have fit around you and sheltered you. You can plan, you can surround yourself with what you need to make it, you can have everything worked out for the rest of your life, and it is guaranteed that all of this will be ripped away, too. In all likelihood, the best laid plans will not follow the intended track.

So you plan, but you know it won’t last and so you plan for it not to last. You leave room for change. You learn to hop, so when the ground is pulled out from under you, you’re already used to unstable footing. You learn to put one foot and then the other one on thin air because that is where life is. You learn that all you have is inside you and that nothing is under you. But you never really learn that because it is so against your grain, so you just do it without any surety and you hope that one foot or maybe two will land on something.

Maybe that is faith. Is it?

You learn a textbook definition of faith in Sunday School. But you don’t know what faith is until you are out there and there is nobody with you and nothing under you.