Today marks a month since I landed on Scottish soil, and so it seems only right for me to spend some time reflecting on how the ‘big move’ is going. I think the title of the post sums things up accurately enough. And by it, I mean everything.
Sure, maybe you’ve seen some pretty pictures or heard rumour of fun adventures. While those are pleasant enough moments, they have only been a tiny slice of what the past month has been like for us. Let’s take stock of the journey so far – the life we have left and the one we’ve embraced.
Back in the States, I had a j–o–b. One that I found fulfilling, and one that I would occasionally feel half-way competent at. Now, I’m an under-employed full-time student. While the pastorate wasn’t a lucrative profession, I never wondered if we were going to be able to keep the lights on. We now find ourselves in a situation where despite many people’s generosity, we will have opportunity month after month to see God’s provision for us. In sum, we have traded in a measure of financial security for financial vulnerability (or perhaps more accurately, financial irresponsibility).
Speaking of irresponsible, we left a house. We haven’t sold it. We haven’t rented it. We left it. Mind you, we hope that one of those two options will work out soon, but a month has gone by and nothing yet. What have we gotten in return? After two-weeks of an ulcer-producing home search, we landed in a home that is smaller and less nice than the one we left. Oh yeah, and it costs nearly twice what our home in Arkansas might rent for… that is if it would, in fact, rent.
The list could go on and on. Schools we really liked for schools that are ok. Roads, grocery stores, and bureaucracy that we knew how to navigate for a world of unfamiliarity that takes three times the effort and time it should to get through. I don’t even want to think about the fact that I haven’t clipped into a pair of pedals in over a month.
But frankly, all of that pales in comparison to that which has been the hardest to leave which is of course people. Friends, family, church, small groups, students, teachers, biking buddies, familiar faces at restaurants and grocery stores. We’ve left a community in which we were deeply embedded. People whom we had the privilege of loving and who in turn loved us. And while we are well on way to making new friends here, there is a sense in which I think all of us feel lonely. Thank goodness that there are six of us (presently seven!) so that we are never truly alone.
The story of Abraham has often come to mind in the past month. Not that I would presume to suggest that I have anything close to the measure of faith that he had, but I would say that I have come to better appreciate his story more in a very tangible way over the last thirty days. I think I can identify with the bits of his story that are left untold in the Genesis account. The sort of thoughts and emotions that one has to read between the lines in order to pick up on.
I’ve wondered how he felt about leaving the familiar behind. Or how easily he slept at night in the Judean country-side while the burden of providing for his clan weighed heavily on his mind. What were his thoughts as he wandered through a unknown land and encountered a foreign people? Most of all, I wonder how many times Abraham second-guessed his encounter with God in which he was told to set forth into the unknown. As he led his family out of Ur, surely he look back over his shoulder more than once and thought, “this is all wrong.”
Not that I was under the illusion that it was all going to be easy. From the outside looking in, one might have made the mistake of thinking that this journey has been an easy one for us. Certainly as I tell the story that began over a year ago, there are countless stories of God’s faithfulness and his seeming to open doors that would have otherwise appeared sealed shut. And that is all true enough. But what may have gone unrecognized is that getting to the place to even test the doorknob took a fair amount of perseverance. Likewise, many have only heard the part of the story in which hurdle after hurdle was miraculously overcome. But it doesn’t convey the sense of discouragement that comes when you bump up against a door that doesn’t seem to budge.
What do you do when your house hasn’t sold? Do you take that as a ‘sign’ that this isn’t God’s will for you? Or do you push on? Similarly, when you don’t have a predictable source of ample income, is that also a sign that it is time to head for greener pastures? I’m wondering how often I’ve simply reduced godly decision-making to fiscal responsibility. Surely, I bow the knee to Christ and not just the almighty dollar.
Sorry if this in any way shatters the image of the idyllic life you thought the Chinos had found across the Atlantic. The truth of the matter is that while following a God-given dream can be exhilarating, most of the time it is just hard work. In fact, maybe the willingness to press on when it is hard is the difference between a fancy and calling. I came across an article on Steve Jobs, and the following words describing the difference between passion and obsession resonated with me…
A disconnect develops between what many of us want passionately and what few of us are willing to obsess over and sacrifice to achieve. The passionate and obsessive are often reading from similar scripts with entirely different endings.
Obsession camps out for Radiohead tickets. Passion goes to the show and sings along, but thinks the fans with their Kid A tattoos are creepy. However, only the obsessed end up with front row seats.
Obsession demands an outcome, where passion doesn’t. It can be swayed into other pursuits when it doesn’t get its way.
Passion wants to change the world, but often hasn’t put in the effort to become great at anything of value. Even worse, passion sometimes knocks over those in the trenches, the obsessed doing the hard work to push their fields forward despite the obstacles.
Substitute the word obsession with calling (not that they are dissimilar) and I can get fully on board with the sentiment. I’ve ended up with a fair share of front row seats at concerts, and I would consider it tragic if my efforts resulted in knocking over someone trying to do the hard work in the trenches. I can only hope that the clarity of God’s calling in the days and months leading up to our departure will sustain in the hard work of pushing forward.
As always, I have more to say, but it is time for other pursuits.
13 Replies to “we are doing it wrong”
Thanks for this very candid, vulnerable and honest reflection on your first month abroad. Transitioning overseas is definitely not an easy task, but it is rewarding. much grace to you all as you persevere through the ups and downs, especially the downs. it does get better with time, but time does bring a different set of challenges all its own. But, I’m confident that as you continue to cling to your calling, that He who has called you is faithful and trustworthy and He will meet you each step of the way, even and especially if/when the steps don’t make a whole lot of sense. I’ve certainly had to cling to this truth myself and it has brought me out of some tough and seemingly dark/lonely days; He truly is faithful and trustworthy. This transitional season will pass. Hang in there…know I’m praying for you all and love you all dearly. May you all come to know Him more deeply as a result of your time abroad…
Thanks so much for this. Yes, adjusting is hard. Honestly, I’ve always thought of myself as a good ‘adjuster’, but something about this has been different. However, couldn’t agree more that He is trustworthy. 🙂
I have been and will continue to pray for you and your family. May God bless all of you.
And your prayers are so greatly appreciated. I can already tell that better days are on the horizon!
“He took him outside and said, ‘Look up at the heavens and count the stars – if indeed you can count them.’ Then He said to him, ‘So shall your offspring be.’ Abram believed the Lord, and He credited to him as righteousness.” Genesis 15:5-6
Don’t you think I have enough offspring? Or are you guys trying to overtake us?
Kidding aside, I do appreciate this encouragement from the scriptures. Love and miss you and your family.
@taidochino What a clear soul searching post! These mind blowing moments when all other thoughts are crowded out except ” what have I done? “These moments only happen when we are on the edge of a precipiice. My own experience with these moments is to reflect on a wise old saying ” Don’t question in the dark the decisions you made in the Light” We are praying for the peace that can only come from above to calm those fears that would keep you from the plans God has for this time for you and your family
Bill, fantastic quote. I’ve been reflecting on it repeatedly over the last couple days. Your prayers and words of encouragement are greatly appreciated!
My favorite quote for at least the last 10 years “do not seek to follow in the footsteps of the wise, but seek what they sought”. I have seen you seeking and encourage you to continue my brother.
And I can say the very same about you. All either of us can do is press on. Miss you and Sandy a ton and can’t wait for you guys to show up over here 🙂
Well, that “POOF” you heard was the bubble that burst that had all of the wonderful pictures of countryside, trips to school, Al and her mom and thinking all the while that you guys were on a great, wonderful and fun-filled adventure. I was also reminded that I have been somewhat lax in my commitment we made to continually pray and lift you guys up. I thank you for your transparency, because that helps us know how and what to pray for. Please know you we are going to be with you in spirit and in His Spirit! Hang in there young friend and know we love you guys!