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In high school, I was a band geek (the geek part is still true). My fellow musicians and I spent countless hours in the band room and on C-Lot (the far, far away student parking lot near the malodorous water treatment plant– not the one behind my house– where we practiced during marching season). The band was our crowd, our clique– so the band room was our sanctuary. We were there for band class, of course. But we also hung out there before and after school, practice or no practice. Many of us elected to eat lunch in the band room instead of in the overcrowded cafeteria.

My senior year, construction was completed on a ritzy and awesome new auditorium and band room. I loved those new digs, but most of my time in the band “cult” was spent in the old band room. It had character. Its carpeted risers were soaked in layers of spit from years and years of young musicians emptying their spit valves. Trophies from dozens of contests lined a high shelf that stretched across three sides of the room, while plaques and former band photo rosters covered any other wall space. The band director’s office was connected on one side at the top of the risers. The bottom level was connected to the storage room, which led to the sketchy percussion room, the dangerous uniform closet, and the exclusive “Trumpet Lounge” (which secretly led to the foreign land also known as the choir room closet).

Animals seemed to like the band room as much as we did. One year, we found a family of possums (yes, possums) living in the storage room. Many a woodwind player squealed upon the sight of a possum on the way to retrieve her instrument. Our band director warned us to stay away and stop taking pictures of the animals, because “it won’t be funny anymore when you get rabies.”

As I remember it, one morning during the days of the possums, we were hanging out in the band room before school, as usual. Suddenly, a crash came from the band director’s office. After some scuffling, he walked out, shut the door, and went to call maintenance.

A possum had fallen through his office ceiling.

We all gaped at the ugly animal and the hole in the ceiling through the office windows. After several minutes, maintenance arrived with a catch pole (apparently our janitors were animal control-approved). They entered the office, and after a few minutes, came out, possum in tow. Its eyes bulged, its claws pawed at the air, and it hissed menacingly as they carried it away.

It’s been years, but I still can’t believe that a possum fell through the band room ceiling. It makes a good anecdote, but it also makes me think.

I never felt more comfortable in high school than I did in the band room. It was my safe haven– my place where I could (sort of) be myself. But even in the places where we feel most comfortable, even around people who allow us to relax and be ourselves, the unexpected can happen. Possums can fall through ceilings.

I was in a job interview recently in which I was asked what stresses me out. My response? The unknown. The little details of the future that I don’t know, and certainly the big details, stress me out like nothing else. They always have.

I like to be in control. I like to know what’s going on. The endless possibilities of things that could go wrong when I don’t know and I’m not in control stir my insides. I especially don’t want the unknowns and the possibilities (or possumbilities) to invade my comfort zones, so I try to guard them with sturdy ceilings and high-level security. I shouldn’t have to let the uncertainties of the outside world in. I shouldn’t be exposed to things that might threaten my boring little bubble.

But as much as I try to prevent it, life still happens inside the bubble. And life isn’t always expected or certain or fair. In fact, it’s pretty darn unpredictable.  Life throws things at us– illness, unfair professors or bosses, unemployment, strained relationships, bills, goodbyes. It doesn’t quit. And we can’t always be ready– because we don’t know.

The funny thing is, as much as I hate it, not knowing makes for the best stories. Dealing with these things in the present, as we face them, are the experiences that shape us, grow us, and color our lives. The possum tale (tail?) wasn’t the only crazy thing that gave the old band room its character. Though it was a comfortable place, unexpected things happened there all the time: microwaves exploded, drummers cooked hamburgers on a George Foreman during class, students vomited, state championships were rehearsed for, and beautiful music was made (not all in the same day).

So, as much as the unknown stresses me out, I’d rather live in a world of endless possibilities than controlled plans (at least on my end). I want the unexpected to pop the bubbles and invade the comfort zones I’ve built in my life– so that I can expand and renovate and add a little to spice to the places I call home.

Thankfully, though we don’t know what’s coming next, we can put our confidence in someone who does. God, who has the sense of humor to make possums fall through ceilings, also has the love and the compassion for his children to put unexpected challenges in our lives that will make us who he desires for us to be, and to walk with us through those times. Knowing the future would only decrease my dependence on God. Not knowing allows me to be in tune with the one who holds the future– gravity-bound possums and all.


COMMENT: When has God’s unexpected sense of humor shown up in your life? 

If you liked this post, you might also enjoy Comfortable? and Quotable: Alastair Bryan Sterne.

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