Life can be very predictable, especially in the traditional sense. Due to our lives being based on traditions and processes, we tend to be inclined to know what to expect in certain areas. For instance, when visiting my uncle’s house on Independence Day, I expect to see a grill cooking up the finest hamburgers and, later, a huge display of illegal fireworks from Indiana (he is known for that ... burgers and illegal fireworks). Whenever I visit my grandmother – no matter what the day or month – I always expect a talk about marriage, babies and relationships, because she is known for inquiring about my plans for procreation. And when she asks about these things, she can always count on a huge sigh instead of an answer, because I am known for huge sighs when talking about marriage, babies and relationships. The point is, the behavior patterns we tend to repeat create predictability.
Even though this predictability can be comforting, it causes one to take for granted the interaction because of the source’s familiarity. But every so often, someone surprises you with something from a place you never expected. Not only are you surprised at what you receive, but the place from which it comes is also unconventional.
About a month ago, this happened to me. Being a somewhat intellectual poser, I try to sneak myself into social circles of “enlightened” individuals for the sole purpose of enlarging my knowledge base, perspective and worldview. These circles usually involve philosophers, theologians, poets and professors way older than me who like to read books ... for fun. They also love to share books with extremely “less enlightened” ones such as myself. Some books are great reads; others collect dust or are used as coasters; and many are sold to Book and Music Exchange. Nonetheless, satisfaction is not always guaranteed, and I blame my lack of gratitude on my high expectations that the source will deliver eye-opening literature.
About a month ago, a “life-changing” book was revealed to me, and it was not from an “Ivory Tower” persona, but from the unconventional – an old college associate. A female, four years younger than I, dressed in a hip Highlands-esque summer dress, dark hair, nose ring, with a penchant for neo-bluegrass music, Internet shopping and books by Dietrich Bonheoffer (the author of the book). Over coffee, she made a strong suggestion that I explore this author. So I purchased Bonheoffer’s “Cost of Discipleship,” read the book and am forever changed – an unexpected result. I erroneously underestimated the source and fell folly to my own prejudgments. Yet, I should have not been surprised – this very column exemplifies the unconventional.
Nonetheless, out of the mechanisms of life, we can find pearls of wisdom in the most unlikely places. But that is what makes life worth living. And if exceptional realities are unearthed from unexpected places, that is a consistency worth enduring.