They started asking, and we started wondering: are we ready to go back? We had booked our tickets in early January, inked a departure date on the calendar, I mentally packed our house, and we finalized too many lists. I’d even had that recurring nightmare about packing. All sure signs that a transition was ahead. Our return to the field was in full view.
Sam and I said it in the car one night, on the way to dinner with friends. “It’s a different kind of hard to go back than it is to go the first time.” We can name the things we’ll miss. We can picture the things we’ll fear. We can remember the things we’ll misunderstand. This time, we know what we’re not ready for. It takes a courage I don’t feel yet to step back into a hard, known thing.
The preparation days are countless decisions and tasks and questions and stumbling to stay in step with His Spirit. Seems like I’m not sure of so many things. Are we ready to go back? The real answer is that I don’t know. That tends to make everyone uncomfortable, including me, so I say it with different words: “We’re getting there. Not quite but almost.”
Weeks ago, I looked out the kitchen window, to the snow, and realized that we had marked our third season in the Midwest. In the time it’s taken for the fields to bear a corn crop and yield the harvest then freeze again, the Lord has been busy, but never in a hurry, growing my soul. He and I have been putting in all kinds of hard work cultivating my faith, my marriage, and my family relationships, and there’s this realization sprouting—there has been growth and progress but there are no check marks.
I breathe a confession: I had so wanted to be all put back together before returning. I had hoped that the Lord would fix me, and all the rest that needs fixing, before we go back. It all makes sense—I don’t know how I’ll keep tending these things when the pressure builds and we return and our days are a mess of needs and heat and survival. But the closer we get to stepping up to the ticket counter and to His call, the more I’m assured that I won’t be fully ready. That I will hand over my boarding pass with a heart that still needs to grow to trust Him more and with relationships that still need some mending. I will stow my carry-on bag but not a fully completed to-do list. I will leave with things undone.
Oh, for a soul that is faithful in a journey instead of a checklist.
A friend of mine who’s been doing this for decades smiled when I said I wasn’t ready. She said she never is. Of course it’s hard to step away from a place of comfort and privilege to the place with less. But the years have nurtured in her an unshakeable gratitude for the gift of both places. Few know both. Even fewer know how to make a life in both.
The pressure eases, a slow relief: Every day—this day—it is offered me to be sure of Christ. I need only be convinced of Him. The Messiah. The King. The Image of the invisible God. His very Word. My Light and my Salvation. Real readiness is dependence on Him, not the ability to handle the challenges of our life out past the pavement. It’s being sure of Him more than I’m sure of myself or my lists or my progress.
An old prayer covers me like grace:
I bind unto myself today
The power of God to hold and lead,
His eye to watch, His might to stay,
His ear to hearken to my need.
The wisdom of my God to teach,
His hand to guide, His shield to ward,
The word of God to give me speech,
His heavenly host to be my guard…
Christ be with me, Christ within me,
Christ behind me, Christ before me,
Christ beside me, Christ to win me,
Christ to comfort and restore me.
Christ beneath me, Christ above me,
Christ in quiet, Christ in danger,
Christ in hearts of all that love me,
Christ in mouth of friend and stranger.
I bind unto myself the Name,
The strong Name of the Trinity…
(St. Patrick’s ‘Breastplate’ Prayer)
Soul, why are you discouraged, restless, downcast, unsettled? Why are you fighting within me? Put your hope in this Christ. Be abidingly assured that He is all this and more and that it matters. Be gloriously guaranteed that Christ will keep being sufficient in each lacking thing. Be courageously convinced that Christ is your safest security, your firm place to stand.
They’ll keep asking if we’re ready, and I’ve no doubt I’ll still have days when I wonder. But there never needs to be any pressure to feel ready. I look ahead to the landscape of a life that changes often and know that He is here and He is there and He is in each step in between. I return to the tasks, the lists, the boxes, but without the burden. It’s hope: living like He’s as sure as the shifting seasons.
What makes you more spiritually vulnerable to fear—the unknown or the known? In what ways do you need to be assured of Christ? How will you raise your attention to His presence with you when you are in transition?