Back One Month

winter retreat - 2008One of the nice things about working for any type of student ministry, college included, is that you get their holidays.  This may actually be more commonly the case for college ministry people than any other branch of student ministries because college kids actually leave for the breaks.  So when Stanford took 3 weeks off for winter break I, for the first time since coming to California, got to go back to Atlanta … for two whole weeks!

I’ve now been back in California for a little over 3 weeks, bringing my total reflection time to 5 weeks … and its been pretty schizophrenic.  So, we’ll just go chronologically from the beginning.

It took nothing more than hearing the pilot come over the speakers and announce the beginning of our decent into Atlanta.  I was home!  I hadn’t seen my parents in almost four months, hadn’t seen most of my friends since I left Atlanta in August, and though it had just been over a month since I had seen Rachel, that may have been the hardest part.  We had just reunited our relationship during her visit over Thanksgiving and immediately were thrust into the reality of long distance romance.  Long phone calls and loneliness, trust checks and miscommunications, time differences and two totally separate lives, trying to hold each other together over 2500 miles … that’s some hard stuff!  And at least for the next two weeks, it was over.

By the time we landed I was like a giddy school girl awaiting her certain A+.  I knew what was coming and I knew it was going to be good!  And sure enough, it was.

Rachel picked me up from the airport, about an hour and a half from my parents house.  That reunion felt like a weight had been lifted off of me, hopefully not to the disgust of other holiday travelers … I feel like we generally do a good job of being conscious of that, but sometimes its difficult, you know?

We got in the car and started to drive back up through Atlanta.  The skyline was even prettier than I remembered it being in the clear, cold, December night.  It was as if every inch approaching the city brought with it a heightened level of comfort, of excitement, of returning memories, and pure joy … I WAS HOME!

I knew within the first 30 minutes on the ground in Atlanta that I would not be staying in California past September, when my year commitment would be up.

As we made our way into midtown, Rachel had suggested that we stop at one of our old spots and get a cup of coffee.  She played her cards perfectly!  I was completely confused by the fact that 10 of my best friends just happened to be at the same coffee shop … together … they weren’t even all friends with each other but they were all sitting together… (am I really dumb for not putting 2 & 2 together right away?).

These people had left whatever else they were or could have been doing to come welcome me home!  I felt so loved and speechless and surprised … I still really don’t have words for that night.  It was incredible!

As the time at home went on, I reconnected with more friends from different seasons of my life, returned to my old church (both of them), found a new type of relationship with my parents, told Rachel that I loved her for the first time, and got asked to be a best man.  By the time I had to get back on the plane I was ready to walk out on my job at Menlo Park and just stay in Atlanta … I’m an at-will-employee, so it wouldn’t be breaking any contracts … But alas, I did get back on the plane and as I type these words I as sitting at my new desk, in my bedroom by the railroad, in Menlo Park, CA.

I returned ready to slug out the last 8 months, securing a job in Atlanta within the first two, and then coasting the last six until I could leave this horrible town that sits between beautiful mountains and the crashing waves of the Pacific, where its always temperate and sunny … I really hate this place!

It took about a week for me to realize the wisdom of Scott, my boss.  He had actually told me exactly what I would feel like while I was in Atlanta and encouraged me to not make any binding decisions while I was there, but to take a few weeks back in California to process all of my feelings and experiences.

Oddly enough, I had written an entry for this very blog on the plane ride home, detailing my incredibly strong and one-sided feelings confirming my intentions to return home as soon as possible.  Somehow though, in updating  my software, that entry became very lost … I don’t know if God thinks that is funny … or … what is really going on there … either way, it seemed quite appropriate.

Scott was right!  My feelings in Atlanta, while very real, and while based on completely valid observations, did not at all consider the good and beautiful things about my life in Menlo Park.  I am making friends, I love my co-workers, I’m learning more about ministry by being out of my comfort zone (Stanford) that I could learn in this season in my native culture (GA Tech, the south, etc.).  

So now is when I’m supposed to say “And I have finally realized that _____________!!!”

Unfortunately I’m not able to do that yet.  I think about or talk to people about a job in Atlanta almost daily, and today I turned in an application for Fuller Theological Seminary here in Menlo Park.  I miss all of my friends who will never move out here and know that I could never replace them, but at the same time realize that I don’t need to replace them … their still my best friends whether they’re next door or across the universe.  I can make new friends and keep my old ones … its win, win!

All this to say, I still don’t know what I am going to do come September.  The post-college period of life is a difficult and confusing one.  I try to rely on God’s guidance, but I tend to get impatient with God.  Then I worry that my impatience makes God mad and that in response to my impatience, God might not ever tell me anything about my future … that I might just have to discover it by stumbling into it like everyone else does … 

I don’t really know where I got the idea that “good Christian people” were awarded the privilege of using God’s omnipotence like a magic eight ball.  It seems a bit silly when you actually put words to it, doesn’t it?

In reality, my future is in front of me, whether here or there, and I will daily discover new treasures that God set out for me to find.  In a way, there is a freedom in not having to know, but trusting in the belief that God trusts us to make decisions that will benefit the Kingdom.  We all want a purpose and seek and pray that God would reveal it to us … the problem is that often, God already has.  Wherever I end up, my purpose is to further the Kingdom of God in that place.

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~ by Will Norman on January 25, 2008.

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