This is where we stopped 18 months ago. Five people and a dog wearily getting out of a stinky car, a continent’s worth of fast food wrappers and dirty socks spilling out onto the hot pavement, the car sagging beneath the weight of all our earthly possessions packed into the trunk and roof rack.
That was a lifetime ago.
Today, I’m leaving from the same parking lot, catching the airport shuttle to Sacramento. Maybe someday I’ll be back. I don’t know. I hope so.
I’ve just kissed Anne goodbye. She's staying in Redding so the kids can finish school. I interrupted an important meeting she was having with an instructor at a coffee shop. We kept it cordial in such a public place. We’re best friends. It’s hard to say goodbye, even when it’s for only five weeks. She's a radical, sold-out lover of Jesus. She knows God's heart. She’s so beautiful and wise and fun. We laugh a lot.
I said goodbye to the kids this morning. A quiet, "I'll miss you," from one. Another with eyes brimming with tears that say more than words or a hug can convey. A final giggle with another. I grip the steering wheel tightly as I pull away.
What am I doing? I don't want to leave them. "There's more here than you can see right now," I sense Him saying.
And He is good.
So now I’m alone, sitting on the curb in a familiar parking lot. My father-in-law would quote Harry Chapin right about now: “All my life’s a circle.” I’m back where I began.
Life’s a circle, maybe, but I wouldn’t recognize myself this time around.
Last time I was here my present condition seemed so real. My immediate circumstances were all that mattered. We were alone in a strange city. The obstacles we faced were almost overwhelming. There was nothing to hold on to, no one to lean on.
Eighteen months ago we had just rolled in from Canada. We’d sold our house, I’d left my career and friends and everything we’d ever known as a married couple and family.
We pulled into California after an exhausting summer ministering at camp followed by a cross-continent drive in a tiny car, hurtling down the highway into very uncertain tomorrows.
We had no house in Redding. So we parked our family for a while at the Oxford Suites Hotel. Crammed into two rooms – and then, when one week of house searching in a very tight rental market stretched into two – all five of us jammed into one room.
Emotionally, I was a mess. I was scared, angry and suffering through some serious doubts. Why had God led us here? What was I doing being so irresponsible? What pain were my kids going to endure, heading into strange schools without even a bed to call their own?
And then, the fog started to lift. First, our circumstances changed and we got a house. Then Redding became home. We got used to the new city, driving without the aid of our phones for navigation. The landscape started to look normal and the people seemed more kind.
Yes, the circumstances changed. But more importantly, my heart was renewed.
I started to taste God’s love and learned that He is good. I started to experience a greater reality where the brightness of the unseen makes the reality of the seen, fade.
My heart and mind are in a different place than they were then. I’m at peace.
I trust Him now. God’s been so good. My children have exploded in love and power. My marriage has been completely renewed. I have huge expectancy of His kindness.
Real is real. Only fools deny reality. What I can touch is part of what's real. Our bank account balance is real and we'll manage it with all the sound, logical personal resources God has given us. But that’s not the ultimate reality. And to steer your life down a road that isn't the most true path is dangerous. The on-ramp to the wrong way on the highway seems just as good as the right on-ramp until you see headlights coming straight at you.
The true reality is that God cares for us. He wants the best for us. He is leading us to greater things. He is bigger than my mistakes. He’s gracious. He loves me. Real is the fact that I've learned I can’t out-give Him.
I no longer set my heart on solving real problems. I set my heart and eyes on Jesus. My mind and my hands still tackle real issues. But my heart stays fixed on Him. I will not let my heart be troubled.
Our next stop isn’t much different from our last one. We’re moving back into uncertain arrangements. We’ll park for the summer in camp beds. We’ll step into huge leadership boots to lead a large staff and a thousand campers closer to a reality of God’s indescribable love, sensing where the Spirit is blowing and trimming the sails and steering the rudder to pick up the strongest breeze.
But before then, we're on the move. Moves are jarring. They force you to think and reflect.
I'm no super hero. What we did is what anyone would have done considering what we'd been through. It's my story, not yours. I'm not boasting in our sacrifice. I'm giving testimony of God's goodness.
These are uncertain tomorrows. All our earthly possessions could still fit into the back of our car.
And for us, this is life. It's life to the full because it's where we've been called. It's life with Jesus.
My reality is no longer just what I touch or the fact that, yet again, we’ll be sleeping in temporary quarters.
My reality is now much greater. God’s love is real.
And He is good.