I am having a cappuccino. The coffee shop is situated on the banks of a river. A stone-paved pedestrian street is below from my view at the window. Looking up, I see the parapets of an old castle silhouetting the blue of sky.
Ok, I admit that I just wrote an article warning against serving Jesus for the sake of cool Facebook updates or exciting blog posts. But allow me just a bit of indulgence. I’ve struggled ten years to be able to write this post, to write that I am in England.
I am in England.
I live here now. And I assure you I am the only person in this coffee shop wearing Carrharts and a Samaritan’s Purse t-shirt colored crimson red (for volunteer teams out of Alabama).
I wrote the article in Relevant Magazine not to dissuade the adventurous from adventure… but maybe to call the wandering out of wanderlust. (Subtle is the difference, I suppose.) I wrote about faithfulness in the mundane and non-exotic not as a man who begrudges exciting travel but as a man who was packing his bags. 19 of them, to be exact. My wife and I traveled with 19 pieces of luggage and four children—two of them in diapers. Let’s see… there were two cars to the Atlanta airport, two planes, a bus or two somewhere in the mix, a (large) taxi, a train, and then two more cars. 24 hours.
We are here for me to begin a PhD program in New Testament at Durham University.
I wrote the Relevant article from a rather unique position of sobriety. That’s saying a lot, coming from a big dreamer. Over the past months, the enormous costs and sacrifices—financial, logistical, emotional, etc.—ceased to be easily ignored abstractions. Reality has its shadows… even beautiful reality. Those shadows were almost too much for me.
But now, thanks to the loving encouragement and help of so many, I am here. And it truly is glorious… my children gawking at the rose window in a 1000-year old cathedral. Picking blackberries alongside footpaths that have been trodden for centuries. Breathing in the fresh, 60-degree breeze. Sipping an espresso drink from a window with a castle-view. But as I wrote in the Relevant piece, so much of life in the exciting places lacks luster. Like when one of your kids tries to crawl over the tomb of a celebrated saint in that 1000-yr old cathedral, or when you are trying to dry clothes without a dryer in a that (quite moist) 60-degree breeze. Trying to get a bank account set up. Trying to find dishwashing soap that works….
I am noticing that my greatest challenge, now that I am here, is not writing for the kingdom or doing research in theology for the church, but in striving to rely on God’s strength to be patient in not having a vehicle, to be patient with my kids when they are too loud or too tired, to be patient while we look for proper furniture for storing the clutter of our clothes. My prayer this morning was not that I might be an extraordinary voice in the cybersphere today, or that I would even be able to share the Gospel with the students populating this coffee shop, but that I would be patient and calm so as not to miss the simple beauty and joy in my kids as they play and eat snacks and process their new daily grind.
So grace and peace… this time–and for a some time to come–from England.