Reclaiming My Gusto

“… and I can already tell I will adore you too.” Her words in an email caught me off guard since I had only met her once through a mutual friend, though nothing about her struck me as anything but sincere.Her words reminded me of a family vacation as a child when I met another 7-year-old at the pool. With no inhibition whatsoever, she told me her name and asked me mine, then plunged into the pool before me. We played the better part of the day, making up games and challenging each other with risk and play. Then, with a turn and wave goodbye, she told me she loved me and I never saw her again.

If only real friends could be made so easily today. But such expressions of affection are suspect. We keep the beauty of our younger, innocent selves hidden, yet desperate for kindness and words of affirmation. When did we learn to hold back … to guard our hearts … to be the kind of people who are so safe and predictable that we remain disconnected? It all smells suspiciously like a thief in the night holding us down from the kind of connection and life that is promised in abundance.

I, for one, have been on a quest this past year to attack life with a “Ta-da!” kind of attitude as if entering a castle like a child. Shame has stolen too much from me, robbing me of joy, spontaneity and playfulness. This idea of “charging in” feels reckless and unwise. A voice instantly whispers (ok, shouts!): “Are you out of your mind? People get hurt this way. You’ve got to tame that unbridled passion inside of you!” And any prudent and well-mannered person would agree.


But, this is where God is teaching me. I do not want to just be a prudent and well-mannered person to the point of being benign for God’s kingdom. I want to live as if resurrection power surges inside of me — because it does! The gospels are full of those who hang salvation on the rules. They appear as pious and cautious, dutiful and well behaved. But, who is Jesus most impressed by? Friends who tear apart a rooftop, a disciple who jumps ship to reach him on the shore, and a woman who wipes his feet with her tears and extravagant perfume. Those are people who pursue Jesus without hesitation. Those are the kinds of people I seek out today, who savor this life that contains a dichotomous mystery of both fighting an evil one and knowingly laughing that the victory has already been won.

Perhaps this is what being present is all about – pursuing Jesus so singularly that shame has nowhere to stick because there is no fear or hesitation.

Would you have been embarrassed to watch the friends tearing apart the roof? Would you have thought them improper and presumptuous? I’m sure I would have, and the disciples probably did too. Recall the time when the disciples were quick to scold women who were bringing children to Jesus while they were settling “more important” issues. At that time, Jesus did the unthinkable by commending the courage and gusto of the women and children, rebuking his friends with indignation and welcoming children on his lap with affection and lightness.

My battle this year for gusto is fierce and clumsy. I don’t always know when to speak or hold back, when to battle or just relax. But, in the trying and in the grace, I’m humbled and persistent. And the new friend who wrote me an email saying she could tell she would adore me? She is a kindred spirit and we are reclaiming our gusto together.

Natalie Sum thrives when someone she knows has an “Ah-hah” moment, whether in a classroom, through an online class she’s created or just talking with a friend. Natalie has a Masters degree in Education and Bachelors degree in Social Work. She feels most alive cruising on her bike and relishing in God’s creation. Natalie lives in Schaumburg, a suburb of Chicago.