A Story of Calling Part II

On Friday the 4th, Caitlin and I caravaned our two cars, two kids, and two dogs to Eugene, OR to join University Fellowship Church. We took turns passing each other on the way and she hit my car with a carrot stub and some sort of liquid, so it was basically a game of Mario Kart.

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The drive itself was a nine hour bridge between a Nevada past and an Oregon future. I wrote about the origins of this new opportunity a few months back and figured an update was warranted. I don’t keep a journal, but since public writing is a helpful way to process life and I have a URL that makes this happen, I figured I’d give it 1000 words. However, any thoughtful writing requires a pause in the action so the stray thoughts can be captured, subdued, and synthesized into a coherent post. That pause has been absent since I last wrote over two months ago.

Until now.

To be honest, I was not looking forward to stage two of this journey. Prior to our decision to relocate, our summer was already slated to be filled with destination bachelor/bachelorette parties, weddings, a family vacation, and the beginning of my doctoral program at Northern Seminary in Chicago. So Caitlin and I had to weave a complete uprooting of life between these events while basically living out of suitcases since the end of June.

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I’m not trying to sound like a martyr for braving a busy summer, outdated Wonka meme. But this did mean that our final days in Reno were truncated and intermittent, and as a result we had to juggle packing, tying up loose ends, and saying goodbyes (which were often briefer than we’d hoped) while traveling around the country. My point is that I would have preferred a short, simple, peaceful time of transition.

But now that we have settled into our new zip code I have had a chance to process a big lesson that God taught me over the past two months. The lesson was this: transition periods are painfully beneficial.

Here’s what I mean. The interval between our decision to move and the actual move was about 10 weeks. In an ideal world, we would have made our decision, said our goodbyes, and then got started in Eugene as quickly as possible. It would have lessened the sting of leaving home while speeding up the joy of the new opportunity. But it didn’t work out like that. And in hindsight, I’m glad it didn’t.

For one, I have gained a greater assurance of God’s providential guidance as a result of the extended transition. I’m often hesitant to connect events in my life to “God’s plan” because 1) it’s easy to be selective with details that fit a narrative I create, and 2) my life is not the center of cosmic events. But the decisions, signatures, packing, and gatherings occurred in the exact timing they needed to and we did not face any major obstruction in our attempt to move despite our jam-packed schedule. I wouldn’t say that life over the last two months was simple and easy or that we just sat back while the dominoes fell, but I think God’s guidance was evident in the fact that, despite juggling a busy summer, we didn’t show up to Eugene metaphorically beaten and bloodied.

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But even though it was tangibly evident that God was guiding the process, for two months we experienced the reality of everything we were leaving while the blessings of the new opportunity were still ethereal. Every interaction with friends and family in Reno had the subtext of “this might be the last time we…” That grew increasingly hard as time went on. I also had frequent flashbacks to childhood memories as I visited various places in Nevada, which produced a mixture of nostalgia and sadness. Everything we were losing was in front of us, while everything we were gaining was over the horizon.

And this opened the door to the doubts.

Occasionally there would be flashes of fear that everything would fall through. That we hadn’t thought through this enough. That we had blown up our lives. That we would be stranded in the desert. Essentially, it was as if we had jumped and didn’t know if we would actually land. This feeling of free falling was difficult, but in hindsight it was not just necessary – it was beneficial.

The reason, I think, was that this was a “second day” experience (this is not my own concept. I heard it in a sermon once). The second day refers to the day after Jesus was killed. It was so close to the resurrection (day three), but was probably the most confusing (and even terrifying) day of the disciples’ lives. It was the day where they were in limbo. It was the day where the reality of the crucified Messiah was tangible, but the promise of the resurrected Messiah had yet to be.

Jesus could have walked out of the tomb moments after he was placed in it. But he didn’t. There was a delay. And I think the uncertainty of the second day enabled the disciples to experience greater joy when they witnessed the resurrected Christ.

The second day is a small picture of the entire story of creation, which is groaning in anticipation for the glory of God to be revealed in its fullness. All of us are, in effect, living in the second day between Jesus’ first coming and his return. So I think God uses second day intervals to teach us, discipline us, and strengthen us. In my experience, my heart was exposed, cleaned, and opened up in ways that a swift move would not have allowed. As a result, my values rose to the surface. My confidence in Christ and boldness of faith grew significantly. The reasons for our move – the opportunity to proclaim the gospel, teach the Word, and pastor people at a formative age – were reinforced. Our marriage got stronger. Our prayer life got remarkably better. I would consider this a divine bootcamp that prepared Caitlin and I for any upcoming battles we may face. Like many important lessons in life, this one was painful yet purifying, mournful yet reassuring. I would not be the same without it.

So that’s the short of it. Over the past week, we have been exploring Eugene, connecting with people, and establishing our rhythms of life. Our kids swiftly adjusted to their new environment, and we are prepared for the next chapter of this story.

Christian, husband, pastor, father. Occasionally, I try to arrange words into sequences that make a difference.