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