We’re back in the states after a delightfully uneventful trip home. We’ve seen some friends, and there’s more to see. We’ve renewed driver’s licenses and passports and insurance and all that. Stephanie is back to work for a bit, and I’ve taken the kids to the playground… the lone father in a sea of moms. We’ve eaten McDonald’s and Chick-Fil-A in the same day, and then immediately regretted it… ok… only I did that.
Things seem a little different, but basically the same. Our friends’ kids are bigger. I’m sure we’ve missed some good times with them, but we’re very grateful for the time to catch up this summer. We’ll be hard-pressed to catch up on everything with just words, so we’ll be sure to enjoy being together.
There’s so many things I learned in Honduras, but one big one is to just be. Culturally, most Honduran people are so much better than me at being patient (not a big accomplishment) and likewise at being present with one another. They’re rarely thinking about the next place they need to go or the next thing they need to do. Now sure, you may be able to think of some downsides to that, but that way of living is packed with benefits.
Last week, as we traveled, I was given a great example of this from my own children. For me, when we have a day to travel, I view it as a task to get from point A to point B, something only to be accomplished. When my children travel, they view it as an opportunity to ride in a car, go up and down escalators, fly on a plane, watch movies, fly on another plane, eat snacks, play games, and just enjoy being together with friends and family we’re traveling with.
Now don’t get me wrong, there were plenty of miserable moments that day, including a sleeping, cry-screaming Evie that needed to be carried off the plane, continuing to sleep-cry-scream all the way up the jet way and into the terminal before waking up several people trying to sleep there at 11:30 at night.
But the point remains. They enjoy just being. Sam and Evie don’t yet have this all-consuming task-orientation beaten into them by society. Now I could make excuses for my own task-orientation by saying that my kids aren’t the ones who are responsible for getting to the airport on time or for getting to the next plane, but I’d be doing myself a disservice if I didn’t just accept it for what it is and try to learn something. We are all expertly good at justifying our own imperfect actions, but we don’t learn and grow through post hoc rationalization, no matter how good it is. We grow through thoughtful vulnerability coupled with an honest willingness to change… and it doesn’t hurt to have a teacher or at least some sort of example.
So in my children I find my example. Is this life we live just a big travel day, consumed by the task of getting from here to heaven? It may be that indeed, but you need not believe that to have a profound sense that this life is also something greater. Our travel day last week was indeed a day to get from Honduras to the US, but my kids also knew it was something greater than that… something to be enjoyed… something to be filled with joy even if it had its own hardships. A day to discover that sitting in the row just behind first class means that your video screen pops up from below your seat, which is basically the most amazing thing you can discover if you’re a 6-year-old boy. I think so often God looks on us in the same way, and says, “I have things for you so much more amazing than that if you’ll just trust me and come along for the ride. But you have to really trust me and let me teach you what you’re ready to learn… one step at a time.”
Now, I think I also have a few things to teach Sam and Evie. Sometimes, they have a hard time putting on their own seat belts in the car. When I put it on for them, they watch my hand where the buckle is being clipped in. Then the next time, they pull harder and harder on that same spot, trying with futility to pull more on a seat belt that’s getting bound up in the car seat. What they don’t see is my other hand that’s pulling the seat belt behind the shoulder, relieving the tension and making it possible for the first hand to snap in the buckle. They won’t be able to see this hand from where they’re sitting. Maybe they can watch me buckle the other kid and learn that way, but most likely, they’re going to have to listen to me explain the process and trust me if they want to get good at buckling themselves. And for a while they might still need my help. They might get frustrated, give up, or even yell at me.
We do the same thing to God. He says, “I can show you, but you’re also going to need to trust me, accept my help, and learn from me.” We respond with confusion or anger when we try to do it ourselves and things don’t work exactly how or exactly as quickly as we want them to… like pulling harder on a bound-up seat belt, doing the exact opposite of what is necessary, and then being upset about the results.
So many of the things God has been teaching me this year seem contrary to my natural tendencies. And they don’t necessarily follow my earthly obsessive-compulsive logic, but they’ve all had the same tranquil and transcendent “feeling” to them. Like, “It’s a journey. Trust me, I’m the one in charge, so you can relax. You can’t learn it all now. Just do this for now. Be faithful in the small things. You don’t need to change the world, just love me and love the people around you. And you’re not here just to get to heaven. You’re here to be here. So be here… or else you’ll miss it. You’re already passing through this world incredibly quickly. Your true home is not in the US or Honduras, and you will be in your eternal home before you know it. And even though that will be unimaginably wonderful, you won’t then have the opportunity to experience joy in the day you have today. It is a gift from me to you. Find me today. Find me now. I’m right here.”
So wherever “here” is, I want God to be with me in it. It’s just immeasurably better that way.