It hard to believe that 84 days, 31,220 miles (by air, car, and boat), and nearly 4,000 pictures later, my sabbatical is nearly finished. Tomorrow is the last day before heading back to real-life on Tuesday. The realities of what I and my family have experienced over these last few months is impossible to put into words. I have actually developed a bit of an action to try to describe it, so if we see each other f2f, you’ll likely see it. As we went into our last weekend of our time, we chose to go camping with some dear friends of ours here in town. We headed out to the Greenbo Lake State Park in Kentucky for the weekend. I thought it fitting that I would be ending my sabbatical in a way similar to how I began – out in nature, surrounded by God’s beautiful creation. Back in May, when I began, I spent most of that first day out at Rowe Woods and I went into this weekend praying for an insight about wrapping up this indescribably amazing period of my life. That insight came today as we were on a short hike on our final morning at camp.
Our two families had headed out and we spread out along the trail and at one point, I was hiking by myself when I came across this spider weaving a web. I had seen spiders do this before, but here I just stopped for a few minutes to watch. There is also a video that is embedded at the end of this post showing what a photo alone cannot (side note, the video isn’t the greatest – my SLR was having some issue keeping the focus on the small spider and the stringy web so I was focusing manually). As I watched the spider go around and around this web, I got thinking about the Gospels that I have been reading through. While there were some stories and teachings that were unique to just one or two of the Gospels, there was a great deal that felt like I was hearing it over and over again. The temptation through it was to skip ahead – after all, I had read about the cleansing of the temple before, right? Well, yes and no. I had read that (or the other stories) before, but not that day and not at that moment and not in that place. I was able to read these stories in places that covered over 31,000 miles this summer (within the US, through the Middle East, to South Africa, and around a segment of the Caribbean) with at least fifteen languages spoken around me in the various places. And I was able to hear them in new ways. So, even though it felt like I was treading the same place over and over, this spider reminded me that it was new every day and new each day as the sabbatical ends.
The other learning came to me as there was a bit of a period of quiet as we drove home today. All the others in the car were asleep or reading and I was thinking about the spider and I thought about how the spider has to do that over and over probably every day. And it doesn’t get different per se – its still a spiral over and over and over. I thought about how I, like so many others, have trouble with being content with the now and with what we have right now. Instead there is the looking ahead to the new, to the different, to the “better”, to the next big thing. Yet, the Christian life is not about the extraordinary happening over and over. The walk of faith is in so many ways walking the same steps over and over. I saw that in the Gospels not just in the stories that were repeated but in the actions that I saw in Jesus over and over and over. Prayer, worship, serving, loving, welcoming. Over and over and over again. As I type this, I think of the Eugene Peterson book I read about the Psalms entitled A Long Obedience in the Same Direction. Its not an instant thing, but a life-long thing with much of what we are called to be being those things that we do day after day after day after day after day. Walking alongside the same Savior, empowered by the same Spirit, surrounded by the same Creator.