The revolution of the Earth around the sun is the perfect lesson of how it should be / So if I can, I’ll learn / to journey and return / to never rest ’til I’ve seen all I can see. – Brendan James, “All I Can See”
The grief is equal opportunity these days.
Grief. I despise it. And yet, I welcome it.
The last time I felt this emotionally wrung out, I curled into the fetal position on a cramped airplane seat leaving Nairobi, pulled my kitenge blanket over my head and hid from the world — at least until we arrived in Dubai.
I wish I could cope with it that simply now.
Today, I leave Bozeman. This corner of Montana has snagged my heart. The closer I get to pulling out of town for the last time, it’s like a physical punch to the gut.
I’m not sure I know what roots are, but if I ever grow them, I’d love for it to be a place like Bozeman. Or just— Bozeman. Yeah, I’d love that.
If I’ve learned anything, it’s that I have no idea what the next year, or even the next day, will bring. I’ve become the master of dancing around the concrete, the definite. Will you come back to Bozeman? I’d like to, but I don’t know if, or when.
And the pain comes.
A glorious, painful adventure
The globe-trotting life seems like a glorious adventure — and it is, in a a lot of ways. It’s also painful.
I’m going to be brutally honest here. The Christian life is one of frustration. We are living in a broken version of what the world was supposed to be. Our true goal is (or should be) true and complete fellowship with God in heaven. This is where many would insert the phrase “in the world, but not of the world.”
In fact, I think that’s where so many Western Christians stumble. It’s easy to be OK with life when you live in the same place for a long time, have the same friends, go the same church and generally know what to expect from day to day. If you’ve reached your society’s ideal, what is there to be frustrated by?
When you have more than one “home,” I suppose it makes you more aware of this life’s transiency. But it doesn’t make each transition any less painful.
Wrenching yourself away from a place you’ve come to know and love for different reasons than that other place you knew and loved is brutal. Especially when you have no guarantee you’ll be able to return.
In the moment
I’m reminded of an episode of “Adventures in Odyssey,” a Christian radio program I listened to when I was young — oh man, back in the days of cassette tapes.
One episode dealt with what it meant to “count it all joy when you meet trials of various kinds” from James 1. Throughout the half-hour segment, the female character tried to deal with problems by cheerfully blurting out “count it all joy” every time she encountered a problem. By the end of the segment, she was flustered, her “count it all joy” more a shrill cry of desperation than a heartfelt declaration.
I’ve long remembered that episode because of the final conclusion. There’s a difference between joy and happiness. Running around with a fake smile plastered on your face is not living a joyful life. It’s weird. Unnerving. A lot like a clown. Just don’t do it, OK?
Joy comes when we constantly reaffirm who we are in Christ. When things are going well — too well. When things are messy, when you don’t feel very Christian.
Live life looking through the lens of the gospel. There but for the grace of God go I. Try it sometime. I have to warn you though — it’s, uh, revolutionary.
It’s what I cling to as I prepare to go back East and, God willing, finish raising the support needed to return to East Africa in January.
To journey, and return
In 2012, I shared songs and albums I’d consider part of the soundtrack of life. I’ve long identified Brendan James’ song, “All I Can See,” as my theme song.
I want to walk through this doorway / I want to open my mind / I want to pledge allegiance to all I can find
I first loved this song because of that wayfaring spirit. But as I listened to it recently, another part of the song struck me.
The revolution of the Earth around the sun is the perfect lesson of how it should be / So if I can, I’ll learn / to journey and return / to never rest til I’ve seen all I can see.
There’s nothing wrong with wanting to see everything you can, with greeting life with wide-open arms. But James doesn’t overlook that we often need someplace to land as we do it.
Maybe someday that landing place will be Bozeman. In the mean time, here’s to the next adventure.