I don't really care for exams.
I know that I am being a bit judgmental, and I'm sure they're very nice once you get to know them, but I'm just not interested. Exams, even though so many of my friends rave about what a hoot you are, I have this nagging feeling that they may be putting me on for some reason. Forgive my skepticism.
Projects and essays, those guys can come party with me any time they feel so inclined. I enjoy their presence and the challenges they bring. You fellows are alright in my book.
As you may have guessed by now, I had an exam today.
It still surprises me how worked up I get over tests and exams. It's almost pathetic, really.
I think I've always had these strange physical reactions to situations of this nature. I remember back in 7th grade, an acquaintance of mine walked past our little corner house in Michigan while I was in the backyard and said "Hey, aren't you the guy with the drumset?" The truth of the matter was that it was my dad's drumset, but wanting to be cool, I probably said "Yea" and that it was mine. He said "Rad. You have two weeks to learn this song" and he threw me a cassette tape of Nirvana's Nevermind album. It was like a "Made-For-TV-Movie" scene you would expect to see Jason Priestley starring in. The seed of rock had been planted.
I felt inclined to hide my new audio rebellion from my parents, for fear that they may see the naked, visually altered infant on the cover, or the tumultuous Kurt Cobain in the liner notes, offering his listeners an encouraging middle finger. I practiced the drum parts over and over again on pillows in my room before I even dared making the attempt to translate these rhythms to the kit downstairs. I had never really spent much time with the translucent wonder that was my father's vintage Ludwig drumset, except for brief spurts of Animal impressions when I needed to let off some steam, and I was terrified to start. I did however, spend much of my childhood idolizing the workings of the legendary Keith Moon and the pure insanity that he brought to the world of pop percussion, but I'll save that for another day.
I carefully studied every movement of the great Dave Grohl's chops, and repeated militantly every tone I hear his sticks make. Not knowing anything about drums, drummers, or how to drum made this endeavor rather challenging, but I was up to it. I eventually made the transition into the basement and I would spend hours in our cold, retro-styled utility room from yesteryear playing the same tune over and over again. If I made a mistake, I started over. Just like playing good 'ol Mario Bros. on the NES. One mistake was reasons to restart the whole game.
By the time the day for the talent show arrived, I had learned this tune cold. I had no idea how to sit, how to hold the sticks, how to swoosh my hair like Tommy Lee, but I knew what I had to do. As we loaded our equipment onto what felt like the largest stage mankind had ever built, a monsoon of nervousness washed over me. I heard the crowd of people; some cheering, some chatting, and I began to panic. I had never felt nervousness of this caliber in my entire life, and I wasn't quite sure what the best course of action in handling it was. I tried calming myself down, offering pep talks under my breathe. "It's cool man, you're homeschooled so no one here even knows you" I said. "Plus, this is rock and roll, you have to make it look like you know what you're doing". Over and over again I would try to get the panic of my body to listen to the reason of my brain.
My nervousness didn't dwindle. In fact, it increased. Luckily for me, when I reach a state of nervousness that severe, my leg shakes at an incredible rate, making it sound as if I am the world's fastest single-kick drummer on the planet. Or at least that's what I was told following our 7th grade talent show. After the endless cheering, screaming, and marriage proposals died down, of course.
That was exactly my deal today. My brain was saying over and over that it was going to be okay, that it wasn't a big deal, but my body responded "Nuh uh, brain! You've pulled a fast one on me before, and I just cannot take that risk. I'm going to tremble with nervousness all day whether you like it or not."
Isn't that strange? Our brain, arguably the most powerful and complex thing in all of existence, capable of enormous calculations, memory recall, and countless other tasks, can sometimes completely fail in an effort to calm our bodies down. It's as if our bodies are saying "I don't care how powerful you are brain, I'm doing this my way."
Today, European air travel was finally back in action after days of complete and total shut down due to a cloud of volcanic ash from Iceland's Mt. Sumthinhaurdtuprunounse that had covered much of Europe, leaving thousands of travelers stranded and upset. The particles of rock, glass, and sand from Iceland can not only impair airplane engines, but can also severely damage the aircraft's navigational tools as well, making air travel of any kind a risky undertaking. The madness that has ensued however, was difficult for anyone to foresee.
I think that a lot of us have a similar relationship between our body and our mind. We're busy with our commitments and responsibilities, living relentlessly in the "Europe" of our existence, thinking nothing of the "Iceland" of our minds far off in the distance. For some of us it could be painful memories, destructive images, or harbored resentment, but we often suppress those thoughts and situate them on an island a good distance away, confident that they won't cause any trouble for us.
What happens though, is that when the realities of what our minds have seen, dealt with, been burdened with or afflicted by are ignored, there is a boiling point, and it often makes a mess of far more than we could have ever imagined. We may try to reason it through, maintaining that inner dialogue that everything is fine, but sometimes the volcano simply erupts, and we are left to try and coordinate an exit strategy. No amount of regimented rehearsal or careful planning can ever really immunize us to this possibility. We are frustrated that we can't simply "reason" this one through, or will it to be okay, but the truth is that sometimes things are a mess. That there are burdens we've carried for far too long that we simply cannot continue to bare. This is one of the many places that community comes so beautifully in to play.
"A person standing alone can be attacked and defeated, but two can stand back-to-back and conquer. Three are even better, for a triple-braided cord is not easily broken.” -Ecclesiastes 4:12
By drawing on the strength of each other, and committing ourselves to community, we grow in intimacy with the Father. Only then can we begin to truly begin to develop the kind of heart that beats for the things that God's heart beats for. Without drawing closer to Him in humble vulnerability, knowing and being known, we cannot expect the ghosts of our past to be conquered, only relocated.
We may do things that don't make any sense. We will respond irrationally, behave unreasonably, react abhorrently. We are broken. But by the irresistible grace of a Creator, and the loving hand of a Father, we can better weather the storms in the family He has blessed us with.
Irrationality and all, I am His.
"Fix your thoughts on what is true and honorable and right. Think about things that are pure and lovely and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise." -Philippians 4:8