I wrote this last March and my soul feels much the same.
I don’t know if I’ve got wanderlust or homesickness and I’m not sure I could even tell them apart anymore. Where is home and when does the wandering stop?
I think I loved the idea of you and you loved her and now we’re left loving what could have been. I’m running after shadows that look like you and you’re running after shadows that look like her and neither of us find what we’re looking for.
I do rarely encounter grace in the world that when it stumbles upon me, I don’t know how to receive it. I shrug, waiting for the punch line, the catch, the moment I’m told this was all a joke and grace only exists in stories, not in this painful, breathing world. But here it is, staring me down, waiting for a reply, and I can’t move. I’ve become a skeptic, to my own detriment. Grace doesn’t grow here. You are a lie. This will all be over in a minute, right?
You’ve gone to people and places,
And I’m left here next to empty spaces,
Hitting the keys again and again,
Hope for enter instead of the end.
The train is a love story between the city and its people. It connects them like the heartbeat of a mother and her child. Thump thump. People are pressed together. Thump thump. Life flows from one end of the city to the other. Thump thump. Can you feel it? Thump thump. We’re all broken in the same ways.
Home is a good feeling.
I’m glad you got there okay,
To the place, at least.
The feeling is harder to arrive at.
It’s elusive like music or a fire.
You can feel its warmth, but
You never reach it entirely,
Or it changes with you,
The way your heartbeat quickens to his words.
Home is the heartbeat slowing to the sound of the earth,
Like a comfortable dance of belonging.
But I don’t know if it’s a dance I’ll ever quite join
Because home is a feeling I may never entirely attain.
I’m just there and back again.
Over the last two years, I’ve strived to tell stories, proclaimed honesty, and, most of all, told people that their stories are important, no matter their smallness or brokenness.
I’m a hypocrite.
I didn’t realize that until a couple weeks ago. Four of my friends are pregnant, two of them are getting married this summer, some of them still live in Chicago, and one of them may be moving to the mountains in the near future. They’re living, falling in love, creating families, traveling the world. And here I am: in Iowa. I cant afford rent at most apartments and I’ve struggled to make friends. I love my job, but I’m scared. I don’t want to wake up one day and be 40, and I’ve never seen the world or lived outside the Midwest in years.
So why not just go? Here’s my dilemma: I believe with a large amount of certainty that I am where God wants me to be right now. But I feel like a small person in a small city, hardly known in this big world.
This is where my hypocrisy comes in. At first, I didn’t even realize I felt this way. The emotion slipped under the surface of my soul, unrecognized, but it was there: I didn’t believe my story was important because I’m not going on grand adventures or traveling the world or changing the course of things or falling in love. My life feels little and I’m alright telling other people that their little stories are still important, but I don’t like that feeling when it’s my own life.
So there’s my grand confession. It’s not really so grand. I think I might make my own value synonymous with the photos I take or the places I travel or the people’s lives I change. And if I can’t change the landscape of the world, at least I can befriend some world-changers. I can influence the influencers. Then I’ll be a part of changing the world. It’s easy to feel significant when Lovie Smith walks through your work or when you never have to pay for movies or when you’re guest-listed at a sold-out show. The ripple from a splash of influence is enticing. It’s easy to tell people they’re important from a stage. But what if all that’s taken away? What if nearly everyone—save a couple remaining “famous” friends—I am with is just as little as I am. It’s harder to tell people that little stories are important when you’re standing outside the venue in the rain. Where does that put me?
But maybe I’ve got it backwards. Maybe those things are the details. And maybe those things I thought were details are my pain purpose in life—not just in Iowa: being faithful with today, learning, being thankful, learning to invest my time and money well, loving God, loving people, being content. Maybe those are the big things. Jesus didn’t call us to do exciting, grand things; he called us to love and to make disciples. Now, I do believe that I will go on adventures and travel and storytell all over the world, but just because that’s not what I’m doing now doesn’t make my life any less worthwhile. God isn’t looking at my passport and at how many children I have or if I’ve fallen in love; he’s looking at my heart and my faithfulness.
This all came together last Sunday. My best friend was in town from Michigan and we were sitting in my basement, watching Remember Me. The next morning she was gone and I was driving to work, when Rob Pattinson’s voice slammed into my mind: “Whatever you do in life will be insignificant, but it’s very important that you do it anyway, because no one else can.” This isn’t meant to be despressing. The film shows how one fellow’s less-than-average life greatly impacted those around him—through forgiveness and reconciliation and love.
In 100 years, I’ll be just a name and perhaps a memory. But right now I’m alive and I’ve been given today. How can I be faithful today? There are people around me that I can love—people whose stories wouldn’t have crossed mine if I was doing “grander” things.
We can’t all be great. Some of us have to be small. My favourite clothing company is called Love Nail Tree and they made a shirt with these words on the front: “If you want to help someone, you’ve got to be a no one.” We have to choose small lives and small stories and love people in small places with great love because that’s the point. And there’s something great about that. There’s an importance even in small stories.
I posted this with my favourite photo from the Owl City show I shot last April, but it didn’t all fit in one screenshot. This is the important part: thank you.
Yesterday I had one of the worst customer experiences of my life. When I look out and see the injustices of the world, or if I think of how Jesus was treated, I know my struggles are minimal. Yet, still, in my own mind, this customer was just enough chaos to upset the rest of my afternoon. She was demeaning and it was all I could do to keep my mouth shut. I was praying that God would give me the strength not to tell her off, and He did. I was even able to wish her a wonderful rest of her day, in a tone that was nearly genuine. But it still irked me for hours—more time than it should have.
The evening before, some friends and I had been talking about prayer and things that are constant, like God’s character. In those hours after that customer, I struggled and tried to focus on the wonderful fact that God didn’t demean us, he became us, he served us, and now we must serve others. If anyone had such a right, he had a right to demand of us, but he knew we wouldn’t measure up so he demeaned himself to offer us the most grace. I was more thankful for grace yesterday.
This morning, on my drive to the coffee shop where I’m now sitting and listening to the thumps of the espresso machine, I was behind a semi that was kicking up dirty snow behind its tires. Or at least I hope was stale snow. I thought about passing him, but my exit was next. Sometimes I just stick in the lane, even if I’m behind someone driving excruciatingly slow or rather overloaded if know my exit is next. If I know the end is in sight, I can endure it just a little longer.
So my conclusion from the past two days is this:
The end to our struggles is in sight. This broken life is not eternal. I’m thankful for our servant God who has given us a beautiful eternal life. This is not the end.
"So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal” [2 Corinthians 4:16-18].