My father was an odd, obstreperous, curmudgeonly rebel. He was one of the first in our community to own an electric car in 1972. He delighted in plugging the car in at friends’ houses when his batteries were low. He often wore a hat with the price tag dangling from it, like Minnie Pearl. He loved it when someone mentioned that the price tag was still on his hat. He would strike up conversations with random people and ask questions that opened profound engagements. He purchased a Rebel sailboat, the first ‘plastic’ (fiberglass) boat on the market in 1948, and he initiated us in sailing regattas. He embarrassed me and introduced me to the thrill of defying the status quo.
My husband often talks about our need for both intimacy/connection and individuation/danger. We are made in God’s image, and we are to be in intimate relationship with others in order to multiply God’s goodness through delighting and honoring one another. We are also meant to forge forth into the world to rule and subdue. This requires us to go past what we know, into the realm of the unknown and uncertain, to discover and glory in God’s yet-to-be-revealed creation. Intimacy brings comfort and connection; individuation enters differentiation and danger.
We need both, but too often I find solace in intimacy and terror in individuation. I locate myself as an Enneagram 9. I don’t like conflict, and I am not naturally drawn to danger. It is easier to go with the flow and keep the bow pointed toward the status quo. My father, with his Honda scooter, hitched rides at truck stops from Columbus, Ohio, to Seattle, Washington, and then put his scooter on a ferry and rode it to Alaska when he was 80. Danger is in my DNA, even if it is not easily found in my character.
A rebel chafes at the false security of always doing what is conventional.
There is comfort in the tried and true and following the herd. But if you are the second dog on the dog sled, the view is not very attractive. The cost of being a rebel, one gifted at being different, is the story of Rudolph the reindeer. We all want to be special and unique, but there is a cost in cutting new terrain or having a shiny nose.
My dad knew so much trauma and loneliness, he didn’t care if he fit a world that often left him feeling strange. He turned strange into a game and never looked back. Rebels unhook the bonds of the past and flaunt the unknown and unformed. Being around a rebel feels daunting and terrifying, enlivening and free. I was often horrified at his antics, while simultaneously charmed and delighted. I learned to live in his shadow, but since he moved in unpredictable ways, I often was caught center stage—which had a cost.
Since toddlerhood, I was drawn to people who were on the edge and made me laugh. Julie, whose parents grew up with my dad (our mothers were pregnant with us at the same time), was my first best friend. She had the gift of comedy. Julie was Lucille Ball, and I was Ethel Mertz! We got in trouble because of her shenanigans, and life was so, so much more fun. I was in search of fun from the beginning of my life!
Boyd Mitchell wore a cowboy hat and drove a truck with bull horns on it in our all-white, suburban Ohio high school. Dick Mackey bought the Abbey Road album at 10 a.m. on a school day and was able to memorize and sing all the songs on the album (and harmonize and act out each of the Beatles parts!) by 3:30 p.m. when I went to his house after school. So, when Dan Allender talked like he was from Brooklyn from our French class door to my English classroom, he caught my eye, and seven years later “took my hand in marriage.”
Our seasons of being with one another, both before and during our marriage, have been a taste of heaven and a taste of hell. How could it be otherwise? I trust him with all my heart, and he still causes me to crouch on street corners in laughter, unfortunately often wetting my pants.
A rebel is a stranger to cultured norms and a window into the wild. It is not merely what a rebel opposes, but what the stranger/prophet creates, that transforms love into the laughter of heaven.
This post is dedicated to Paul Stephen Gilbert, who would have celebrated his 100th birthday on June 10.
Becky Allender lives on Bainbridge Island with her loving, wild husband of 44 years. A mother and grandmother, she is quite fond of sunshine, yoga, Hawaiian quilting, and creating 17th Century reproduction samplers. A community of praying women, loving Jesus, and the art of gratitude fill her life with goodness. She wonders what she got herself into with Red Tent Living! b
Becky, I love you more each time I read your stories. You; for being willing to share your heart, to share your joys and struggles. For your kind wisdom and courage to enter the colors of life. For your vulnerability. You are a blessing to me. What a difference you and Dan have made in my life! You carry the sword exceedingly well!
Wow…Marie, what kind, kind words. I know that you are that same person to so many people in your life too! Thank you!!!
Again, so beautifully written, Becky. I love that you give us a window into your past and into who your dad was and the influence he had on your life. I’m finding that looking back reveals so much of who we are in the present. Your dad sounds like such an interesting person who took roads less traveled by others – and it made all the difference – to him and to the people around him. I have a person in my life who is much like your dad. I often worry for this person’s safety as the chosen roads often seem perilous. Your piece is timely and offers me perspective as I watch this person on the brink of yet another seemingly perilous journey.
A line that struck me was, “My dad knew so much trauma and loneliness, he didn’t care if he fit a world that often left him feeling strange.” I have a feeling it was often difficult for you growing up to live with his not caring if he was strange, but perhaps also a gift as he gave you permission to find your own wings and to notice and embrace the wildness in others. You ended with, “A rebel is a stranger to cultured norms, and a window into the wild.” Jesus was a stranger to “cultured norms” and gave us “a window into the wild.” I find myself longing for more of that in my own life.
Barbara, thank you. You are correct that he gave me permission to find my own wings and embrace the wildness in others. You are a beautiful writer. I love how you express your thoughts. Rebels definitely cause others to worry! Jesus truly embraced the wild!!
I fell in love with your dad, but I’m sure his antics would have caused me to love him from afar. I, too, like status quo and am not much for adventure into the unknown. I like a well-planned, workable plan; then I can step out. Thanks for sharing. I enjoyed reading the window you opened.
Thank you for reading this piece and enjoying it! Sometimes (not always) I feel like a split personality…dressing conservatively, yet feeling a bit like a “hippie” inside! My dad sure was fun to be with and I loved how he loved my friends and in return, they loved him back. He was an odd duck. We loved acting out Groucho Marx scenes together!
Becky! What a delightful entry! I love your wild and winsome heart!
Thank you Christine! That means a lot to me!
Hi Becky, nice to see you pop up in my fb feed. Looks like you and Dan are living the life. Seems like it was another world when I was babysitting your babies. Glad to see you are well.