It’s a dangerous business, Frodo, going out of your door, . . . You step into the Road, and if you don’t keep your feet, there is no knowing where you might be swept off to.
These have been golden days. We are into the third month of a second marriage. We enjoy good health, clothes to warm us, food to keep us full, and a roof over our heads that doesn’t leak. It sounds normal enough. Yet, I hardly make it from bed to bathroom in the pre-dawn hours without thinking “Wow…am I really here?”
Just the geography of it:
Greg: Wisconsin—El Salvador—Mexico—Washington
As Carol has said, “Who’da thunk it?”
Plus, it was not that simple. It never is. Our stories are written in the hyphens… conversion to Christ, saying yes to kingdom work, second languages, marriage, children, grandchildren, spiritual maturation, the birthing pains of discipleship and church planting, the transitions (often a euphemism for losses), spiritual fruit that remains, an abiding love for those who carry on in our absence… and now this.
A “two—language—two—country” experience makes us different at a core level. Few appreciate or understand it. So, we feel alone… like Harry Haller, the main character in Hermann Hesse’s masterpiece, “Steppenwolf.” The experience compels us to think of all people as human beings… to value each person’s story, to be in tune with God’s love for them. It makes us increasingly disinclined to engage others with demeaning talk or divisive attitudes.
I could never have predicted where I would be “swept off to.” I did not anticipate how transforming life in a different language and country would be. The conflicting emotions of a life being lived now, rubbing against a long life lived elsewhere, are overwhelming at times. It is not a harmful nostalgia that yearns vainly for the good old days. It has to do with simply missing family and lifelong friends who are too far away to embrace, break bread with, be in the Word with. The smells, the food, the noise, the colors, the language, and the camaraderie…
Yes… good adventures breed nostalgia. But what adventures they were! Linda (first wife, now in heaven with Carol’s first husband, Milt) would often say, “We did it. We set out to live for something bigger than ourselves…. and here we are.” No slight intended, but I can think of nothing that transcends disciple-making and church planting in final, eternal importance. I can’t imagine anything more personally gratifying than going to Mexico or Japan (or across the street) to see just one soul come to Jesus. Can there be anything more glorious than pioneering an effort that turns into a healthy, self-propagating body of believers where previously there wasn’t one?
Nostalgia is painful at a gut level. But I have chosen to make peace with it, because my kind of nostalgia is the best kind. It is so much more satisfying than a life lived without ever having stepped into the Road. And for those who seek fulfillment by reveling in bygone adventures, there is only a stairwell descending into murkiness and shadows. Our memories and accomplishments die with us.
What if our adventures aligned seamlessly with the perfect will of God? Wow! Then death would mean... glorious reunion (talk about forever friends!)… enjoyment of the spoils of victory... more adventures... exultation forever and a day… basking in God's glory.
EYE HAS NOT SEEN, NOR EAR HEARD, NOR HAVE ENTERED INTO THE HEART OF MAN THE THINGS WHICH GOD HAS PREPARED FOR THOSE WHO LOVE HIM.
Greg grew up in Menomonee Falls, WI. His ministry began in 1976: 5 years in Central America, 36 in Mexico. Church planting and discipleship have been his passion.
"The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and hid; and for joy over it he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field." -Matthew 13:44
Concise devotions in Spanish and English, along with some lengthier essays… Designed for personal spiritual growth and to help anyone studying English or Spanish as a second language to improve their skills… Rev 14:6
To highlight one essential facet of the eternal Gospel of Jesus Christ... Rev 14:6; 2 Cor. 5:18