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Or, “Leaving/Staying Pt. 2”

These are words I’ve been meaning to write for a little over three months now. Unfortunately, they haven’t formed themselves into complete sentences until tonight.

Some of my fondest memories as a child revolved around the regular trips my mom took my sisters and I on to the quaint, local library of our little town. The reason for the trips were usually school-based in nature, but the undoubted highlight for my pre-adolescent mind was picking up the latest offering from the keenly-titled “Choose Your Own Adventure” series of books. I devoured every copy I came across within mere hours. I became engrossed in every turn of every story and was incredibly curious about every possible conclusion that the book could lead me to. So much so, that I think my ardent wonder might have developed into something of a character flaw.

Because somewhere along the line, I started bookmarking every decision I came to.

That’s right, I bookmarked every single decision and when that decision ultimately led to some grotesque demise, which it was most likely to, I retraced my steps back until I made the right decision. Now, i’m sure most of the kids reading “choose your own adventure” books along with me in the early 90’s did something along the same lines. After all, to get the most bang for your buck (or my 2-week library checkout, rather) you had to go through quite a few redo’s. I might have just taken those redo’s a bit too far by redoing every single decision I made until I came across the best possible outcome. Those of you who are familiar with “choose your own adventure” know this was no easy task.

I think it’s safe to say that I’ve had a fairly enlightening year. In fact, I may have learned more things about myself in the past year or so than I have in any other combination of years in my life. It’s possible that some of these things were readily seen and known by those around me, but it’s taken me roughly 28 years to let them sink in. You shouldn’t have to wait so many years to learn so many truths about yourself. I feel like God should sit us down the moment we’re born and fill us in, “These are the things you’ll be good at, son, do them and do them often.”

I guess maybe we need that time, though. We need to go the long way around. Maybe we couldn’t handle a deluge of revelation all at once. We need that slow succession of seconds, that stacking up of lessons over time. We need maturity to do it’s faithful work, bit by bit, everyday.

All I’m saying is it isn’t fair.

So what have I learned? Well first off, I’ve learned that on the whole, I lack motivation. All this reading about motivation and I honestly don’t have much to speak of. I did at one time, I know that. Back when I was young and reckless. Back when I had only the next four years of my life planned out. When I set broad, mountain-esque goals for myself but put no realistic structure in place for how to go about reaching them.

So naturally, I sputtered out. I hit a dead-end. I was stagnant. Breathing, yes. Subsisting, sure. But not moving. Not working towards something. Not heading anywhere. Those who know me best would say I was “spinning my wheels” or “stuck in pause”.

I guess I was waiting on something. Waiting on something to happen. Waiting on opportunities? Waiting on God? I guess. I suppose I was stuck at a bookmark. But one key lesson I’ve learned from all this reading/revelation is that we should take stock of the things God has given us. The talents, the gifts, the abilities, the connections, the friends, the family. Whatever we have that is supernatural. Whatever is divinely ours and no one else’s. And we need to use them. And use them now. Appreciate them severely. We can’t wait for something we think should be coming around the bend. Because, honestly, it may never come.

And so, it was time for a drastic decision to be made. It was high time to awake out of sleep. Time to do something because now is the time to get something done.

“Why sit we here til we die?”

Unfortunately, that’s where my previously referenced, childhood character flaw begins to set in. I fear commitment. I’ve always been indecisive and figured that it’s just how I am. But I believe now that it goes deeper. I fear whittling down options until I’m locked into one singular path. Because then, there’s no looking back. There’s no redo. There’s no backspace or CTRL+ALT+Delete. It’s just me, my decision, and God.

I have to own it.

And I hate that. I hate not having options. I pack twice as many clothes as I need on a trip because I like to have options. I don’t like making concrete plans because then I can’t change my mind later. I resist releasing music that I’ve recorded because then I won’t have the option of editing it later. I’ve even passed up relationships because something in me says that I have to hold out for something better. And I’ve stayed put in the town I was born in because I know my options for living elsewhere will always be limitless. They’ll always be out there. And they’ll always be an excuse for not living an adventure now.

Like the great philosopher, Pedro the Lion, once said, “It’s good to have options”.

At this point my decision became more than just my decision. It left the scale of the common, ordinary “What will I eat for breakfast?” minutia to a whole other stratosphere. The decision took on a life of it’s own. I would say that it’s possible that I was not even the one making it.

I just knew that something needed to change and it would have to be soon. So I began heeding my advice. I began taking stock of the things God had given me. The relationships, the talents, the gifts, the abilities, the connections; I started making a list. Started weighing pro’s and con’s.

And increasingly the lot began to fall to Kansas City.

My ties to Kansas City have been oddly vast over the years. From the youth camps I led worship at in high school to the post-college years when I toured through there as apart of an indie-rock band. There’s the close friends who have recently moved there to the recently-acquainted friends who have lived there all their lives. Something was beginning to pull me in a westerly-facing direction. And that something was not me.

So I prayed. And prayed. And sought counsel. I fasted a month from Facebook. I wanted to know for certain that this something wasn’t me or some airy notion I picked up from someone else. I wanted to make sure that God knew what he was doing.

Because moving to Kansas City sounds completely crazy.

Leaving a very good job with no certain means of employment waiting for you in a foreign state is crazy. Quitting a worship band that you love playing on week-in-and-week-out is crazy. Moving 13 hours away from the only friends you’ve known and the dear family that you’ve come to love more and more with every passing year is absolutely crazy. Leaving everything you’ve ever known is crazy.

But I think I’m ready for crazy. I think I need crazy right now. I think what I’ve needed most of all to push me past this rut in life is a fresh step of faith. I’m two years from 30. My hairline has begun receding (with no hope of it moving in the opposite direction) and my body certainly aches more than it used to. I need to get out and live now or I never will.

What I’ve needed most is an adventure.

An adventure of my own choosing. A decision that I can’t bookmark. An option that I can’t go back and change. A single point that I must cross and not turn back.

And so I am doing just that. I don’t know exactly what I’ll be doing there. Or even where I’ll be living. But I do know that it’s now after 2:00am on Monday, July 5th, 2010 and I am moving to Kansas City tomorrow.

And there is no turning back.

Will you choose to sit here until you die? Turn to page 54.
Or will you choose to get up and live? Turn to page 73.

It’s interesting how you sometimes have to leave home before you can ask difficult questions, how the questions never come up in the room you grew up in, in the town in which you were born. It’s funny how you can’t ask difficult questions in a familiar place, how you have to stand back a few feet and see things in a new way before you realize nothing that is happening to you is normal. - Donald Miller

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Ryan Straits



Ghost States

The art of the in-between

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