IVP - Strangely Dim - The Chipmunk My Brother

September 17, 2004

The Chipmunk My Brother

By David A. Zimmerman

This summer I spent a week staffing what was essentially a retreat for college students. I went into it with some trepidation, since I was being called on to go somewhere I’d never gone to do things I’d never done for people I’d never met. But it’s not like that’s the first time that’s ever happened, so I decided to go for it.

Our first full day there included a retreat of silence, which is a period of time during which you retreat from your normal surroundings and try to keep silent. I’m not good at silence, so I kept a journal—a kind of literary noise—of the experience. Read on.

* * *

I have a new best friend. He’s a chipmunk. I suppose I don’t know for sure that he is a he, but getting emotionally attached to a female chipmunk might be considered inappropriate, so I'll continue to presume that my new best friend is a boy.

My new best friend has stopped by often to say hi, and he’s just joined me for lunch, so we’ve had several chances to connect. He isn’t afraid to get close, but he’s not overbearing in how he relates to me. He’s everything you might hope for in a friend, and more than you would expect from a chipmunk.

I guess I could have seen this coming. I’m at Cedar Campus, a retreat center operated by InterVarsity Christian Fellowship/USA. My wife came here years ago and made her own new best friend; she was visited regularly by a duck, who would join her for times of quiet and help her to process the day’s unfoldings.

I expected to see my share of animals this week; we were alerted from the outset to their presence (they’re year-round residents). Yet I didn’t expect to share a meal with one of them. I didn’t expect a confessor or a buddy. My brother the chipmunk is a gift of grace this week, a surprisingly delightful host.

I came up here knowing two people. They’re both sensitive to the needs of the people around them, but they also have many responsibilities that necessarily trump the anxieties and relational desperations of an insecure tourist such as myself. I’ve since met several wonderful people—both college students and the people who minister to them—but their attentions and obligations necessarily start with the other members of their fellowship. They’ve been very gracious, but they’re needed elsewhere.

Which is fine now, because I have my brother the chipmunk. If we will be recognized as children of God in the way that we love one another, then I can gladly attest to the faith of my chipmunk brother. This week, I will be his student, and he will teach me to love.

I think I’ll call him Chucky.


Read an interview about my forthcoming book, Comic Book Character.

Posted by Dave Zimmerman at September 17, 2004 9:23 AM Bookmark and Share

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Behind the Strangeness

Lisa Rieck is a reader and writer who likes to discuss good ideas over hot drinks and gets inspired by the sky. She takes in all kinds of good ideas as a proofreader for InterVarsity Press.

Rebecca Larson is a writer/designer/creative type who has infiltrated IVP's web department, where she writes and edits online content. She enjoys a good pun and loves the smell of freshly printed books.

David A. Zimmerman is an editor for Likewise Books and a columnist for Burnside Writers Collective. He's written three books, most recently The Parable of the Unexpected Guest. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/unexpguest. Find his personal blog at loud-time.com.

Suanne Camfield is a publicist for InterVarsity Press and a freelance writer. She floats ungracefully between work, parenting and writing, and (much to her dismay) finds it impossible to read on a treadmill. She is a member of the Redbud Writers Guild and blogs at The Rough Cut.

Likewise Books from InterVarsity Press explore a thoughtful, active faith lived out in real time in the midst of an emerging culture.

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