Monday, March 10, 2014

Memories and Milestones

Ever notice how certain dates can stick in your mind? You may be just looking over your planner for the coming week and one numbered day unexpectedly gets your attention, triggering memories and pulling up thoughts and feelings that have long been dormant. That happened to me this morning when I noticed tomorrow's date, March 11. Suzanne says it's because I was a history major in college. Dates and times and events stick in my mind somehow, even though I can't seem to remember useful stuff, like we're out of peanut butter. I can't help it, I just remember stuff, both the happy and the sad days.

It was on March 11, 1975 that my family moved from Windsor, the small town where I grew up, to Grandview, a suburb of Kansas City. It was spring of my freshmen year in high school. We had only moved once in my brief life, from Maryville to Windsor when I was only seven years old. When you are seven, a family move is just another exciting adventure, no big deal at all, but when you are fifteen years old, being uprooted can be a cataclysmic event.

I don't recall my parents taking a family vote on the move, but if we had, I would have voted against it, loudly. Mom tried to explain to me all about God's will and Dad's ministry, but I wasn't hearing it. My brother Jerry was staying to finish out his senior year, so I was the only kid making this move, and it was a hard one for me. Not to be overly dramatic, but it was a painful transition and it came at a difficult time. A back injury had knocked me out of football a few months before, so I already had a sour attitude about life in general. Then I learned that in Grandview schools, I was going back to junior high because high school there didn't begin until tenth grade. And some of the classes I had been taking in Windsor were not allowed for a ninth grader in Grandview, so I ended up with three straight study halls, assigned seating, me alone at a cafeteria table for three hours each day. That didn't help much, just making me feel that much more alone. My back condition kept me out of P.E. and any school sports, so most of the things I had done before to make friends were no longer available.

Though I struggled through those first few months there was some good news to go with the bad. For the first time in my young life, I was nobody's little brother. No one knew my family. As far as they knew, I was an only child, and I did find that strangely refreshing. The bad news was as far as they knew or cared, I was nobody. Getting acquainted was tough towards the end of the school year and making friends was a slow process. The few kids I had met from Dad's new church went to a different school, so I was pretty much on my own.

Amazing to me how vivid some of those memories are for me. The weekend before we moved I remember a "going away" party with lots of friends, a bittersweet goodbye that meant a lot to me. I remember the youth choir at church singing a song for Dad, an old Irish blessing, "May the Road Rise to Meet You." I remember lots of hugs and tears that I did my best to hide. Then it was goodbye. March 11, thirty-nine years ago. Gosh, I'm old. By now I should have worked through all of this, shouldn't I? And I have. Since that snowy March day, I have moved many times, from Grandview to Liberty to Kansas City to Lincoln to Independence to Lamar to Sedalia, and most recently here, to Arlington, Virginia.

And here's what I've learned about life and faith in the moving:
  • Go means go.
  • You and I are in no position to see the big picture.
  • Our comfort and convenience are not high on God's list.
  • Moving usually means growing.
  • The world is a big place, bigger than we think.
  • Faith in God is never static, always dynamic.
  • We cannot receive the new while we cling to the old.
  • God always gives more than He takes.
I wonder sometimes how different my life would be, but for March 11, 1975. Come to think of it, it was just about a year later when a sixteen year old boy felt a strange inward stirring, the call of God on his life. Would I have been listening? Would I have been ready to respond if God had not picked me up and put me down where I did not wish to be? God knows. Indeed, He does.

Think of old Father Abraham, a wandering Aramean, moving from place to place, pursuing the promise of God, and every time he moved his tent, he built an altar. Not a bad approach to life when we face tough transitions and painful change. Move your tent and build an altar. Trust Him to turn your painful memories into milestones of faith. 

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