Prone to climb: Making sense of the in between

phonto
I was talking with three friends that I’ve known for years. We were in a building I had been in less than four times, surrounded by people I don’t know for the launch of a church that didn’t exist a year ago. The juxtaposition of the old and the new mirrored much of our conversation.

One of my friends shared how this season of life–moving across the country, working in a church start-up, looking for new jobs, establishing new community–has been…interesting. Lots of really high highs, and lots of really low lows. Lots of tiring days but lots of incredibly fulfilling work. Lots of finding our way in a strange and unfamiliar land, but lots of discovery and exploration and delight in doing so.

I’ve been thinking a lot about this weird space–this in between, though that hardly captures the sentiment entirely. It’s the place where life is both really great and really challenging. Where you’re enamored by completely new surroundings and longing for the familiarity of the old. Where life’s a ball and life’s a drag at the same time.

What do we do in this space? What do we make of it?

As I look back, I can see several points in life where I’ve walked through this in between space before, though my less enlightened brain hardly caught the irony at the time. The excitement of finishing high school and the unknown land of college. The pain of death and the peace of wholeness on the other side of Glory.

And then I look to Scripture. Abraham had the promise from God, but he had to wait 25 years to see it fulfilled. Noah had the clear direction to build the ark, but he also had the detractors. Jesus had the crowd, but he also had the critics.

Maybe that’s life, and maybe it’s not as black and white as we would like it to be. It’s a mix of both: the good and the bad, the challenging and the rewarding, the easy and the hard, the joyous and the painful. And maybe we can’t compartmentalize those things as much as we would like (or as much as I would like). Perhaps it’s less peaks-and-valleys and more hikes along the slope, casually drifting between climb and descent, knowing that you can’t have one without the other.

It’s hard to process both simultaneously. Most of us want the black or the white–not both. Not together.

But here we sit. In the in between.

Prone to explore: The purpose of wandering

2015-01-26 12.40.31In this current season of life, I’ve been kicking around the idea of wandering a bit. What it means. Why it’s important. Why I value it. Clearly, I put a lot of stock in the word and all of its connotations, since I decided to use it as part of this blog’s name.

I know that part of my current infatuation with adventure and exploration and discovery (or, more simply, “wandering”) is largely due to living in a brand new city. Nearly everything is an exciting new adventure. Every restaurant dish a new experience. Every stroll down the 16th street mall affords a new view, a new coffee shop, a new request for assistance by a hobo (true story, for another time).

But something happens in the wandering. It changes us. It makes us see things differently. There’s an almost whimsical element that accompanies it: delight. Discovering something new. Seeing beyond our present realities.

On some level, I appreciate the wandering because it shifts my focus. It proves time and again that there’s a great big world beyond my perspective, and I’m but a minor player on a massive stage–not the main event.

This is exciting stuff. Particularly in a season of life that is somewhat stressful and a tad discouraging and a little more uncertain than my comfort zone would typically allow. Perhaps you can relate.

I moved to Denver four months ago to help friends start a new church, leaving behind the familiarity and certainty and stability of Florida and the life I had there. That alone has been and adventure. But there’s more to life than predictability, which is a big admission for someone who excels at predictability and places a high value on it. But I’ve been learning that predictability rarely yields delight.

In many ways, wandering–exploring, discovering, delighting in the new–feels like the universal antidote. Maybe our seasons of stress and discouragement are when we need to wander the most. When we need to reset our thinking and shift our focus. When we need a break from the routine to see God painting a bigger picture than we thought.

Delight defeats discouragement.

So take the trip. Try the new recipe. Put in the work of climbing the mountain and take in the new view, or whatever else you consider wandering. And though I certainly don’t recommend a cross-country move to everyone, I do recommend doing something.

Prone to wait: With eager anticipation

waitingCan I be 100% honest for a minute? Waiting stinks. Like for real. It really, really stinks.

I find myself in a season of waiting on some pretty big things–things I thought would have worked out by now in one way or the other. But they haven’t, at least not according to how I thought they would. And clearly, working out according to my plan would be the best route for all involved.

To me, waiting has a direct correlation with frustration. I heard a great definition of frustration once: it’s the distance between reality and our expectations. Waiting, then, is when our expectations don’t meet reality in the time that we think they should.

We’re currently in the season of Advent–the celebration of and anticipation for the birth of Christ, according to the traditional church calendar. I’m reminded of people waiting on the promised Messiah–people who had faced persecution, displacement, suffering. He was the answer to their prayers, their longing, and I can’t imagine what that waiting must have been like.

But if you’re in your own season of waiting, I can understand that Advent and the recognition of waiting hardly feels like a celebration. Maybe you’re in a season you didn’t necessarily plan or a place you didn’t anticipate. Maybe you’re waiting on something big, or longing for something you know is a long way off.

I’m not going to give you empty platitudes, since those often seem to do more harm than good. I’m not going to tell you “It will get better” because maybe it won’t, at least not right away, or maybe it will and you already cognitively know that. I’m not going to tell you to “be patient, God has it all under control” because you’re already being patient–you likely have few options otherwise. Sometimes we just need to wallow in our own discontentment for a minute. (I find that stints on the couch watching Netflix is a good way to accomplish this wallowing, but perhaps you’ve got your own method.)

Here’s what I can say: press into this season and search for the ways that God is working in you–not in the thing you’re waiting on. Don’t be stagnant in the waiting season. Don’t let the wallowing last longer than a minute or two, because there are things to be done and learned and experienced in this season, as hard as that may seem. Don’t be blind to the things closest to you by being focused on the things far distant on the horizon.

And take stock of your expectations and your reality, and work to change those accordingly, should you have the ability to do so. Waiting often feels out of our control, but what we do in that season certainly is not.

Prone to mourn: When greatness falls

A very good man died recently.

This is likely one of the most obvious and self-evident things I’ve ever written, since good people die all the time. But it’s remarkable when it’s a good person that you know.

I’ve written about death before, and I’ve been searching for a way to write about this one since I heard about it last weekend. There are lots of things that stink about loosing people, but sometimes, loosing great people is hard because we lose a real-life example of greatness, and those examples feel more and more scarce.

When we look at truly great people, we see our own inadequacies. We see an example to follow and we see our betters. Something to aim for. Teaching my 7th graders last year, I explained it this way: when you play video games against someone really good, you recognize how bad of a player you are.

But here’s the thing: great people inherently don’t leave us lamenting our own inadequacies. Because truly great people know their own humanness, their own flaws, and want nothing more than to point others to the Redemption they’ve found.

That’s what Mr. Pearman did.

A pastor and a prisoner of war who fought in Korea, Mr. Pearman was no stranger to tragedy during his life, but he always carried a smile and a warm, manly hug whether he was seeing an old friend or meeting a new one. He was a confidant to my pastor and a friend to my family–two traits I am grateful for. He loved his family, his church, and his Lord.

He was one of those people I wish I had gotten to know more while I had the chance–a lesson I’ll evidently never learn well enough to put into practice.

He was a great person. A very good man. He left a solid example for those of us who knew him. The world is worse because he’s gone but better because he was here.

But he wasn’t perfect. He was a Tennessee fan, after all.

Prone to move: “Go west, young man…”

Let’s get right down to business: I’m moving to Denver.
Lookout
Specifically, I’m moving to the northwest Denver suburb of Arvada to help with a church-plant project called Storyline Fellowship. Though this may seem like a sudden change, it’s been in the works for a while.

Sometime late last year, I heard about a new church planting project that my church in Orlando was preparing to sponsor. It sounded like a nice idea at the time, but I honestly didn’t give it a second though. That all changed when Ben and Lynley brought their family to Orlando early this year.

After a few weeks of having them around and hearing more about Storyline Fellowship and my church’s participation with it, a friend challenged me to give it some serious thought and prayer because she thought it could be a great opportunity, and she felt like God was bringing me to mind when she was praying about it.

What she didn’t know at the time was that I was in the early rounds of interviews for what would have likely been a Dream Job in Orlando. I told her that I would think about Denver once I knew what was happening with the Dream Job.

Nothing happened with the Dream Job, as it turns out, and true to my word, a long process of contemplation and prayer about a move to Denver commenced. Over the next several months, I connected with Ben and Lynley and their family and several other friends who were also in the process of figuring this out. I talked with my parents and with friends near and far, and began to think that this could actually be a reality. My emotions were going in two very different directions: growing excitement at the possibility, and growing hesitation about leaving the familiarity of family and friends and community. (Full disclosure: this is still the case.)

Before they left Orlando, Ben and Lynley and I picked out a weekend in June for a visit. Leading up to it, I tried not to put too much pressure on this one weekend as any sort of confirmation, but by Sunday night during the trip, sitting on the deck looking over the Denver skyline, I knew that a move to Arvada was my next step.

I listed my house for sale the day before I left for Colorado in late June. After 13 days on the market, I had an offer. It’s now under contract, and as of this writing, the plan is to move shortly after closing in mid-September.

There are still plenty of unknowns, namely where I’ll live and what I’ll do for a living. But God has been apparent and faithful in this so far, and I have no reason to think that will change.

I’m excited about the road ahead. I have no doubt there will be plenty of other blog posts leading up to and after the move. But for now, I’ve got a growing list of things to do for a cross-country move and a shrinking amount of time.

Let the adventure begin!