Our daughter made the 10 o’clock newscast the other day. But it’s OK.
Really, it’s OK.
Even though the story that featured Ellen emanated from Borrego Springs – deep in the heart of the southern California desert, a place I’d never even heard of…before my daughter and her buddies ventured there last week.
Despite my initial misgivings about having a loved one traipsing about in 118-degree heat, I thought the brief interview captured the essence of Ellen’s spirit very well. ‘I’m lovin’ it,’ she laughed. ‘The desert was calling my name!’
That’s Ellen, all right: She listens to her heart—even if it means making her Daddy’s heart skip a few beats now and again. Among her adventures in recent years: She was the first of our children to ‘go away’ for school, earning her undergrad degree at Xavier University in Cincinnati; she was the first, too, to study abroad (spending part of a summer in Italy); this past spring, she joined a friend in organizing a mission trip to Haiti; and this summer, she’s at it again, house-sitting for the sister of a friend in La Jolla.
And I notice that whenever Ellen proposes such breaks from the routine, my first reaction is often reluctance: Wouldn’t you be safer if you just stayed put?
That’s true, even though experience teaches me that her treks and jaunts typically produce things of great beauty. Look closely, and you’ll discover that our world is a better place because of Ellen’s creative heart and adventuresome spirit.
As I reflect on Ellen’s latest five-seconds-of-fame, I am drawn to consider the spiritual energy that sparked her trip into the desert last week. On the whole, I think it’s a good thing—a healthier instinct than the initial reluctance I often feel when nudged by the Spirit.
That may be the very thing Jesus is trying to point out to his would-be followers in the gospel passage we heard at Mass today. One responds to his invitation by saying, ‘I will follow you, Lord, but first let me say farewell to my family at home.’ And Jesus replies in a way that, frankly, is rather vexing to those of us who are creatures of habit, lovers of routine: ‘No one who sets a hand to the plow and looks to what was left behind is fit for the kingdom of God.’ (Luke 9:62)
If we want to be kingdom builders, it seems, we have to be willing to venture out into the desert once in a while. We have to be ready to take a few chances, and perhaps set out for places unknown.
The upside, of course, is that when we’re following the Lord, we’ll always have a great traveling companion. As the Psalmist says,
‘You will show me the path to life,
fullness of joys in your presence,
the delights at your right hand forever.’