My stream of words hasn’t flowed here much over the past few months because the rest of life has been a river in flood – a surge of newness rushing at us and over us.
But I thought to pitch a tent on the bank for a moment, to share some things we’re telling ourselves because adventures are exciting, and adventures are difficult. Some days you surf the torrent. Some days you nearly drown. That’s what makes them adventures.
And maybe you could use these reminders for the adventure you’re living too.
Donald Miller says,
‘If you watched a movie about a guy who wanted a Volvo and worked for years to get it, you wouldn’t cry at the end when he drove off the lot, testing the windshield wipers. You wouldn’t tell your friends you saw a beautiful movie or go home and put a record on to think about the story you’d seen. The truth is, you wouldn’t remember that movie a week later.
Nobody cries at the end of a movie about a guy who wants a Volvo. But we spend years actually living those stories, and expect our lives to be meaningful. The truth is, if what we choose to do with our lives won’t make a story meaningful, it won’t make a life meaningful either… People love to have lived a great story, but few people like the work it takes to make it happen. But joy costs pain.’
We’ve been in the UK for three months and five days.
Our story’s not about a Volvo.
(Although, to be fair, Murray is driving one. It’s his work car. He loads it each morning with lunch, a sense of humour, and all the optometric equipment and PPE the boot and backseat can carry. Then he heads out for home visits to old folks and vulnerable others. He has seen splendid mansions surrounded by unspeakable beauty, and he has seen the abject squalor and apathy of lives lived off government benefits. Some days he comes home with gifts – books, homemade curry, et al – and always with crazy stories. This makes the Volvo not very boring at all.)
One of the questions through which we filtered the decision to embark on this family adventure was,
‘What’s the story we want to tell?’
We didn’t want to tell a story of being too scared to step, or too comfortable to answer the call of God. So we opted for risk and discomfort, which is painful, and freeing.
We also opted for the adventure of cracking into a new culture as quickly as possible – which is exhausting, the way pushing tent pegs into concrete with just your bare hands and a positive attitude is exhausting.
Plus, we’ve been blindsided by things that bent our tent pegs and smacked us face first into the concrete.
But God is stronger than concrete, and every cultural and emotional curveball. And slowly, we’re finding ground soft enough to drive in our tent pegs, and stable enough to hold them there.
We’ve met neighbours and school moms and friends-of-friends and we’ve joined a Zoom life group and (at last!) started visiting (socially distanced) churches.
The boys are doing a kayaking course. They ride their bikes or kick a football in the park everyday while Joni barks at the swans. Scott is playing cricket. Cam goes to Youth on a Friday night.
We’re using our weekends for the pinch-myself privilege of exploring all the anywheres we can find. We’ve had the unusual freedom, at this stage of marriage and kid-raising, to invent new rhythms. We’ve also taken refuge in the old ones because the only thing that hasn’t changed in the past three months is the four humans who make up this family.
I’m writing a new book, and freelancing in all the ways I know how (stopping short of dancing with crates at the traffic lights – but you never know). I drive most places now without Google Maps, and I’m beginning to sort-of understand the aisles of Tesco.
These are small but significant victories.
So from the patches of soft ground we’ve found, it’s been good to remind ourselves:
God uses concrete and curveballs to make us more like Jesus (Romans 8:28).
He knows – in a sovereign, front-footed way – every plan and purpose He has for us and none of them can be thwarted (Jeremiah 29:11, Job 42:2).
He sings over us and speaks faith and strength over us (Zep 3:17, Judges 6:12-14).
He fights for us, while we stay calm (Exodus 14:14).
There’s mercy, one day at a time (Lam 3:23).
He’s the resurrection and the life, and the Vine in whom we abide no matter what shores we wash up upon (John 11:25, John 15:1, Psalm 139:9).
His joy is our strength, and He restores our resolve (Nehemiah 8:10).
On homesick, heartsore days, we’re learning to hold space for both grief and peace in our two-chambered hearts. We remind ourselves God made these bright green dappled forests and streams and country fields and strange, pebbled, waveless beaches and all these people with souls He died for (and accents).
They possess a unique beauty, a distinct God-glorifying charm. And He calls it good.
We’re learning to – just sometimes – give ourselves a freakin’ break, when all the brave we’ve had to muster leaves us breathless.
We remind ourselves God is making new wine, for new wineskins. The making of wine always involves crushing. It is what it is.
This is the spot in the world where we currently find our feet, and so (as we find our feet) Jim Elliot’s words keep us steady:
‘Wherever you are, be all there! Live to the hilt every situation you believe to be the will of God.’
Friend, here’s to sturdy pegs in the ground when you pitch your tent on the heights of adventure. Here and there, may there be quiet waters. And may we journey with wisdom, kindness, courage and love.
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