“People write their addresses in pencil and wonder at their strange existence.”
On an ordinary afternoon, these words flash, flicker through my mind, and suddenly, I’m 16 again, eye black on my cheeks, wearing camo pants I borrowed from a friend and standing on a stage at a New Year’s Eve youth rally delivering the monologue I’ve practiced for weeks while smoke machines hum and lights give the illusion that I’m speaking to a much bigger crowd than I actually am. (If photo evidence of this exists, I certainly don’t have it.)
The text is from Pete Grieg’s poem, The Vision and the Vow, and I am reciting each word with clarity and precision, feeling goosebumps rise on my arms as the music carries my words and my thoughts along. The words are thrilling to say as a sixteen year old. The idea of moving from place to place, eating whatever food is available (or not eating), not caring what I wear, not being confined to 9-5 humdrum drudgery is exciting and its flashy and following Jesus seems pretty wonderful and exhilarating and intense.
And now people probably do write my address in pencil, or at least make jokes about having to help my family move again. I still haven’t bought one of those nifty monogram stamps that most of my friends had on their wedding registries because my first one would’ve gone out of date within 3 months. I found out the other day that my daughter will think we’ve lived somewhere a long time if she celebrates two birthdays in that place. We’re on the verge of our 8th home in 7 years. David and I just made a list of the things we’re going to get rid of this time around, because, let’s be honest, we ARE SO SICK OF MOVING. AND FOR PETE’S SAKE JUST SELL IT ALL ALREADY. THIS STUFF. I DON’T NEED IT.
It’s not that exciting. It doesn’t seem wonderful or exhilarating. It seems draining and sad and exhausting. These days it looks a lot more like crying over goodbyes to new friends and stressing out over debt-to-income ratios and mortgage applications and agonizing over how much of our stuff we actually should keep than the flashy, exciting, crazy life that sixteen year old boasted about on New Year’s Eve.
It looks like saying no to letting a building keep you from following the leading of Christ. It looks like trusting that there will be a place for you to live when you are packing up boxes without knowing the address where you will unpack them. It looks like pulling into the driveway of a place you’ve never even laid eyes on with a van full of boxes and saying cheerfully to the kids in the backseat, “This is our new home!!” as though you had more of an idea than they did of what was on the other side of the door. It’s much smaller and mundane and achingly boring than it seemed when I stood in that smoke all those years ago. It’s thankless and it angers people and it is a sorrowful way.
I don’t listen to or read things like that much anymore. I certainly don’t stand in the middle of a smoke-filled stage with camo pants and eye paint, shouting myself hoarse. Now I pack boxes and I go to job interviews and I have those same conversations with my girls about making new friends and worshiping with new people and how God’s people the church meet in many different places and what a blessing that we get to see so many different groups of God’s people. I fold up banners while my husband talks about laying down our lives and our children’s lives in obedience to Jesus and tears fill my eyes. I alternate between excitement for the days ahead and relief from the burdens we no longer carry and grief for the relationships we’re leaving behind. And I chuckle to myself. No one’s writing an amped up poem about this. No teenager is going to stand in the middle of the stage shouting herself hoarse about how exciting it is to leave behind your vintage gold couch because it will certainly fall apart if you move it one more time.
But the vision is still Jesus.