The following is a post written by a Missionary Kid a few years ago after his ‘anchoring place’ in the USA was gone. He gave permission to repost it here on CINCEL’s blog because of its relevance to our students’ lives – indeed to all of our lives.
For this note, I can’t think of a good title, and also what does it matter? This post will be long gone in 300 years.
Which, in fact, is the point of this writing. All good things come to an end. Bad things too. It all ends. Every firm and rooted anchor becomes rusted and nothing, the boat drifts, falls apart, and the ocean itself dries up.
Now that I’ve brightened your day, let’s continue.
About a month ago, my grandparents moved down to Florida. Not a big deal, you probably say. It’s true, Florida is filled with people’s grandparents. It’s not unique, but it’s unique to me. Here’s the thing; my grandparents have lived in their house for 35 years. When I was little I remember hunting for my Christmas present in the living room. Nearly every Christmas between 1998-2011 we would fly in from our country of service (or I would drive from college), head west on snowy I-480 and pull in, then proceed to ensconce ourselves on the gray pullout couch beds which would be our home and Bowl watching stations for the next two weeks.
Almost every weekend during Seminary I knew I could drive up and stay, and eat. Always eat. Then I lived there for 13 months. We had no power when superstorm Sandy blew through, but we had the family room. Then I lived elsewhere but close, stopping by for dinner.
And post lunch after meal.
I knew I could head to Porter Rd. for a couch, a tv, a catching up on church things with my grandparents (who have established a legacy of faith in the family), and some rice.
And rye bread.
And green peppers.
Because of that family room and my grandma’s affinity for English chefs, I’m now convinced that no Dinner: (is) Impossible. That house and those rooms were always a fallback, always an option. I watched the Cleveland Browns go 0-8 last year as I watched from those gray couches. Two days before they moved I had lunch in a plastic bag waiting for me to take to work. For 100% of my entire whole complete life, that house was there.
Within 24 hours it was not.
Yes, the building is there. But my grandparents are not. No more jokes from my grandpa, which actually were usually clever. No more sunny-side eggs on a sausage-and-love-biscuit.
What had been security for 25 years and 10 months of my 25-year and 10-month existence was now an address.
The purpose of saying all this is not for pity.
Not at all.
Most people have suffered losses of much greater consequence. I do not write to explore the uncharted territory of this (minor) loss, but an attempt to sample the landscape of loss itself. Whether the loss is from paycheck to unemployment, Ohio to Florida, or life to death… what is now will not always be.
This realization reminded me of a creative work I absolutely love titled “Vapor,” by The Liturgists . The song and accompanying spoken track deal with this very concept. In fact, I have to credit much inspiration for this writing (and soon-to-come sermons) to The Liturgists’ work on that album. All we see and know and hold to is … vapor. Here now, gone…now, or tomorrow.
Read Ecclesiastes. That guy knows what I’m talking about. Check out this picture of the Pale Blue Dot. A lot of people are already familiar with this picture. If you’re one of them, go look again. Why not.
Carl Sagan has a fantastic quote about this picture. Again, you may have heard it. The following is taken from his book, Pale Blue Dot: A Vision of the Human Future in Space. Here’s what it says,
“Look again at that dot. That’s here. That’s home. That’s us. On it, everyone you love, everyone you know, everyone you ever heard of, every human being who ever was, lived out their lives. The aggregate of our joy and suffering, thousands of confident religions, ideologies, and economic doctrines, every hunter and forager, every hero and coward, every creator and destroyer of civilization, every king and peasant, every young couple in love, every mother and father, hopeful child, inventor and explorer, every teacher of morals, every corrupt politician, every “superstar,” every “supreme leader,” every saint and sinner in the history of our species lived there-on a mote of dust suspended in a sunbeam.”
Now, I do not agree with a lot of what Mr. Sagan might believe. However, the truth and wisdom of the statement above are real.
What do we do with that? My life is one-seventh of one billionth of one pixel.
What do we do with that?
Maybe my (one billionth of a pixel worth) response is to not anchor anything on that dot.
My meaning and purpose cannot be found in my degree(s). Cannot be tied up in my job (which I love). My security cannot be kept in my health or ability to play soccer, or even to think and reason. It certainly cannot be upheld with entertainment. The NFL will not last forever. The 120 years of Ohio State Buckeye football tradition will end.
The United States of America will one day not exist. Yet most of us cannot imagine a world without it.
The problem is that I do quite often put my value on these things. I get frustrated and angry when I’m injured. When I lived in another country, I tried to find peace in trips back to the US. I ‘trust’ in God through the difficult times of having a full-time job, a new car, and a warm apartment. And I think most of us do. Now yes, many of these things have inherent value. I take pride in the work I’ve accomplished and the academic standards I’ve met. There is value in the joy of community and in cheering for a common cause. I love going to my parent’s house for dinners, games, and conversations.
I have hope in the future for other valuable and worthy things: influence in students’ lives, deep friendships, maybe some letters after my name, a wife that helps dominate ultimate frisbee games and doesn’t get dominated in trivia crack.
But all of this can and will be gone. Maybe in an instant.
We have to anchor outside the pixel. In a God who created us.
A Creator who validates all good things. Who gives love, purpose, and meaning. Who will BE when you and I are long gone. I want to anchor not in sand but in the unmovable bedrock. Because then I can ALSO enjoy the sand, the tides, and the beauty of the creatures around.
As the Gatherer of Ecclesiastes says: Our duty is to fear God and keep his commands (12:13). Then we can eat and drink and find satisfaction in our work (2:24). Then we can search the depths of wisdom (7:1-14). We can invest in the future (11:1), and keep the promise of youth (12:1-7).
Because of an eternal Maker, the fleeting instances in our lives are validated. So be thankful for each moment! Rejoice in every meal and step. Gold is valuable because it is rare. The same with each breath constituting the vapor of our lives. Thank your Maker for life. Even when we hurt, when we don’t understand.
Help us see beyond ourselves. Forgive me for anchoring in the dust. Help us see You. Help us to anchor in you, with faith.
“Be my rock of refuge. A strong fortress to save me.” -Psalm 31:2
Thank you, anonymous MK, for your honest and inspiring reflections.