This summer I was talking to a former student about how she wanted to travel the world. I said that I had never really had wanderlust, but that she should follow her dreams and go every place she could and all that jazz. She paused and said, “Well, if you don’t want to travel, what do you want?” I had never been asked that before, or at least not so bluntly. “A house.” I told her quietly. “I want a house.”
I have been drawing blueprints for houses since elementary school. Many of them were for fictional characters to live in, but some were just for me. And in the houses I drew for myself, there was always one central, special haven of a place. There was always a great big round perfect bathroom. It had a domed ceiling, with windows high in the walls. There was a fireplace and bookshelves wrapping all around. A toilet and sink would be tucked away behind some curtain somewhere, and the enormous claw-foot bathtub would sit in the heart of it all, built with ledges wide enough to hold books and papers and snacks and drinks. Most importantly, the door would shut and it would lock. If that bathroom ever actually existed, I would probably never come out.
I love closed doors. I love closing my bedroom door and my classroom door and the door of my car. I even like closing the door of the stall in public bathrooms. It gives me instant relief when I am anxious and it makes me feel safe.
I can blame this on my introversion all day long (and sometimes do,) but the fact is, I am saving myself up. This is my justification. I don’t want to run dry and run out so I conserve energy and patience and self, as if I, a human being, am some allocated amount of precious resources which must be spent judiciously and reasonably at just the right times and in just the right places, then locked away when not in use, away from all those leeches: those other human beings.
I am not a misanthrope, but, though every one of my vices is pretty darn drawing-room appropriate, they are all ways of pulling the latch-string through, retreating, “shutting the door and sitting by the fire.” So many things I run to to heal my soul seem to be just more ways to keep people out. As if the others are the problem. As if my occasional human agony and weariness is not born of the sin in my own heart.
I am not some valuable resource to be scrimped and bartered with. I am a growing, stumbling child on the great communal road to righteousness. I am a created vessel, meant to be filled and poured out, washed and filled again, always open. I am a door for my precious students to walk through and through and through.
A great and dear friend of mine wrote once that we ought not “draw imaginary lines on the seat; let people lean into your space and when the pain comes ask Jesus for the grace to bear it.” I have not been redeemed from the pit by the God of the universe so that I can spend my time locking myself in bathrooms. I have been redeemed to be an image bearer, to become like Jesus, to take up my cross and give myself away.
I still want to buy a house. But I’d like some other people to live in it with me. Or at least one. We’ll start there.