“Want some tea?” I asked as I headed to the kitchen.
I asked as a joke. My husband hates tea, and has ever since before we were married. Accusing it of tasting like “wet grass, like leaf-water,” he has left the kettle as my sole domain.
“Yeah,” he answered. And then, after a pause, “What kind do you think I would like?”
I dug up the fruitiest tea I could find, a tart orange, and gave him the mug and a bottle of honey. I listened to the clink of the spoon against the mug. “This is not bad,” he said thoughtfully. “I think I like it.”
Now, we are having Pandemic Tea Time every day. When I asked him what motivated the random change, this out of the blue desire to try new tea, he said simply, “I decided I wanted to try new things this year.”
I was thinking about that recently as I set out on my daily walk. The pandemic has turned me into a walking machine, and I do not miss. Like the mailmen of old, I am thwarted by neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night. I will walk, albeit carefully.
But the ice has been problematic. Shoveled sidewalks and driveways, the purview of good neighbors, have melted and slushed only to turn overnight into skating rinks. I grew up in Appalachia around plenty of snow, and so I know the answer is not to walk the path most taken but, rather, to follow the fresh snowpack. Much less chance of falling.
And so, while there is a line of bootprints and pawprints down every ice-slicked, slushy sidewalk in the neighborhood, alongside them and in the snow you will see my two booted feet: alone, making my own path, but secure in my steps.
Taking tea. Walking in the unspoiled snow. There’s something important about the willingness to do something different, something new.
Christians fret a lot about desire and instinct: we spend a lot of time plotting out how to avoid our base desires, the desires that lead us into sin, the instincts that might be selfish rather than selfless. But I do believe that, once we have evaluated an urge or a desire to see that it falls within the general confines of God’s will for us, it is okay—beneficial, even, to try something new if it strikes us. To walk the path not taken. Especially in our spiritual life.
I spent my entire young adult life refusing to be trammeled by routine. My prayer to God was always spontaneous, always a lot of me talking, always whenever the Spirit moved me. I still do this. But the past few years have nurtured an urge in me: “What if I made prayer a habit? And what if my prayers were sometimes silent, or sometimes just Scripture? What would happen then?”
What would happen, I found, was that I would encounter God in surprising and unexpected ways. That I would feel calmer. That something inside me would stabilize.
I spent a long, long time dreaming about how to monetize some of the crafts that I do. I’ve long dreamed of being a sort of wandering paid artisan, selling my wares here and there. This summer, I had the opportunity when I was asked to sell some of what I had made. But God, through my husband, placed a strange urge in me: “What if you just gave them away, instead? You don’t need the money.” And so I did.
I’ve been asking myself that question in a lot of areas lately. Again, as long as the desires fall generally in line with God’s will (so sadly no “what if I quit my job and built a blanket fort to sleep in all day?”) I allow myself to at least entertain them. Sometimes they’re small: what if I start praying at this time instead of that one? What if I give this to that person or do this for that person? What if I choose to ignore what this person said? Sometimes they’re impractical-but-interesting: what if I went to seminary and got my M.Div.? Sometimes they’re baby seeds of ideas: what if I tried this project that interests me, but offered it up as a ministry?
Entertaining these questions, and sometimes following through, has made me kinder. Has made me more generous. Has made me a little more compassionate. And has made me happy.
I want to be clear that I’m not recommending you every chase down every wild, harebrained idea that pops into your head. That’s not what I do. But sometimes I let myself pray a prayer like this: “God, if there’s something interesting to try or to think about today, will you let me pay attention to it?”
And then, if I experience that or thought, I just consider it. I test it against Scripture, against good counsel, against my own desires and my heart. If it seems like something to do, I try to implement it. If it seems like something I should do but perhaps not right now, I write it down. And if it turns out to be my desire to build a blanket fort in disguise, well, I recognize that and let it go.
I decided to try new things this year, said my husband, and he inspired me. I’m wondering: what might you try this year that’s new, or different? What’s your fresh snow or cup of tea? I believe God loves working through and with the creative spirit he’s placed in us, so don’t squash the voice that wonders “What if I…”
Listen. Consider. And see what might open up for you.