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On the Edge


"Sometimes when you think you are done, it is just the edge of beginning."

Natalie Goldberg, Writing Down the Bones

My dad told very few stories during our childhood, but one of my favorites went like this:

A wealthy Frenchman (all Dad's stories were set in France where he grew up) lived in a mansion at the top of a mountain. Needing to hire a new driver, he scheduled an interview with the three best chauffers in the province.

"The road to my villa is steep and narrow." he said to the first. "How close can you drive to the edge of the road without going over?"

"Monsieur, je puis conduire sans risque a moins de douze centimetres par le bord," the driver replied.

I think this is actually why Dad told the stories—so he could throw in his little-used but still perfect forgeign language skills. But since he never taught us a word of French, he explained that the first driver could drive safely within about six inches of the edge.

Given the same question, the second driver bragged that he could easily drive within three inches of the edge, and had done so on many occasions.

The third driver looked a little sheepish (Dad loved that word) at this point but the man encouraged him to give his answer.

"I am sorry, Monsieur, but I don't know how close I can drive to the edge. I have never tried to get close."

"Then you are my new driver," the wealthy man announced.

I always thought the story had something more to do with Dad's outlook on life than it did with driver's ed. While he was an accomplished electronic engineer, he certainly preferred the safe, risk-free, and well-trodden paths when given the choice.

I've been feeling lately that I need to re-examine some of my assumptions and look for places where fear of failure or lack of faith has kept me from living the life that God wants. At the same time, I think my dad understood something that gets missed in our attention-deficit culture. He knew how to go deep. He knew how to focus and dig and learn the intricacies and nuances, not just the quick-start instructions to life.

I need to be willing to push on the edges and explore new directions. But maybe more than that, I need to get past the free-trial stage and fully embrace things that are right in front of me; bypass the timid introductions and welcome relationships that are real and transparent; stop loitering on the outskirts and get to know God in a deeper way than ever before.

I like the edge as much as the next guy, but sometimes the center gets an undeserved bad rap.

Posted November 27, 2004
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