One year in Kenya, coming right up

The scribbled notes jumped out from the bottom of the bulletin page.

“We haven’t been called to go anywhere He hasn’t already been.”

Even on crinkled paper, barely legible, it stopped me for a moment. It was from a sermon on Mark 8:27-9:1. (Also located here: April 15)

I was sorting through some papers in preparation for my move to Kenya. I don’t normally save my church bulletins. This one missed the trash bin.

I’m glad it did.

I still remember what I did after the first serious talk with SIM about cutting my two-year term down to one year: I drove to a local state park and cranked out an hour-long trail run.

Running is my thinking time; chances are, if I need to make a big decision, I run. It’s even been known to shatter writer’s block. One time, I had wrestled with a magazine story lead for days, and a deadline was breathing down my neck. Twenty minutes into a trail run, I worked it out – and had to cut my run short to scramble back home and write the opening paragraphs before I forgot them. Here’s the final product.

As much as I love trail running, I don’t remember all of my excursions. That particular one after the talk with SIM was different. More than once, I forged into a section of trail I thought would be passable, only to find it overgrown. More than once, I had to admit defeat, turn around and backtrack until I found a better route.

It seemed an appropriate backdrop for my conundrum. Despite what seemed like a clear call to move to Kenya for two years – milestones reached rather quickly and affirmations from my church, family and friends – I was already eight months past my original target departure date. Financially and logistically, I couldn’t stay in limbo indefinitely.

It would be easy to view the decision I knew I needed to make as a defeat; I did at first.

“We haven’t been called to go anywhere He hasn’t already been.”

One of the reasons I love running is that it’s like a snapshot of life. Just ask the woman pictured. There are the highs, when you’re blown away by the beauty of what you’re experiencing – mountains, forests, lakes – and each stride comes easily and you feel good. There are the lows, when you’re sucking wind, hurting and cursing yourself for ever putting one foot in front of the other.

The passage from Mark 8 contains the well-known exhortation: “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.” At the heart of it is the command to renounce the right to self-determination.

We’re called to say “no” to self and follow Christ – outward signs of a Christian life mean nothing if your heart hasn’t changed. It can be a lonely endeavor. It can be a scary experience. It’s not our natural inclination.

I don’t know about you, but it is easy to give God glory when I’m flying along. It’s not so easy when I’m bruised and bloodied and limping. The amazing thing is that He’s been there. Jesus walked this earth. He lived a humble life. He experienced hunger, pain, sorrow, joy, anger, laughter, abandonment – in the human context. He paid the ultimate price, experiencing wrenching separation from the Father in the process.

It took me a while to process the implications of going to Kenya for one year, as opposed to two. While different than the original plan, it’s the time set for me at this point. It’s a part of this journey, a journey that has been a mix of open doors, dead ends and retraced steps. And at every turn, God has been there. He wasn’t surprised. He knew. What a comfort.

“We haven’t been called to go anywhere He hasn’t already been.”

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One response to “One year in Kenya, coming right up

  1. Pingback: Saying goodbye when I don’t want to | from the writer's notepad·

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