No one stays in one place anymore. Isn't that kind of sad?
When I was growing up, my dream was to live on a farm. I would marry a farmer, and we would grow old together, surrounded by our children in other homes they would build on their farms. Our lives would be filled with children, then grandchildren and then, God willing, great grandchildren - all surrounding us in our quiet, country life.
And then I grew up and fell in love with a Navy man. An aviator at that. And my life became filled with screaming fighter jets exploding sound barriers overhead as I hung out my wash and tended my family in our tiny postage stamp base-housing home. Rather than cherish quiet nights with my husband, I grew to cherish reunions with him instead as he returned from one long deployment after another. The grace filled parenting years became, often, a test of endurance as I tackled one childhood issue after another; miles away from home, family and husband.
My dream of a country life on a farm faded to the background, as I trudged through different days and learned different lessons. And all was well.
The time came when we had that opportunity for a quiet country life. We moved to a small New England town where the roots went deep and long. Granted there were some newcomers like us; but many others had been there for generations. We began to set down long roots ourselves: coaching the little league games, children running amok at the downtown festivals, opening businesses, meeting and mentoring new people, joining committees, golf courses, clubs. Our children became the 'locals' we had always dreamed of being; our family surrounding us, hectic but grace filled days.
But we learned that even paradise has challenges on this earth. Our new challenge was that we had not chosen very wisely. Although the town we picked to set roots in had an innocence among the youth - that innocence was shattered among the teens. Values turned in on themselves in the local culture: good was called evil, and evil became the new good. Of course, with that mentality, faith at best was something only really ignorant people still believed in, and at worst was something practiced by people we should hate. We slowly grew to realize that in a teenagers life, the glitter of sin has a thin, but attractive veneer. It mocks the substance of virtue, the solidness of faith. Our family's laughter faded to tears, the confidence to fear. We had little choice but to leave.
And so we find ourselves here: the traffic gives you despair; but the faith gives you hope. Lives have been mended, educations won, souls restored - but it is not really home. We are one family surrounded by thousands - no, more like millions. Far, far, far away from thoughts of quiet country living and growing old with the friends of our youth.
Yet I find that we are redeeming the time.
Just returned from Rome, and it has me thinking. What were the Christians' plans for their lives? Some generations they got to worship in peace, ever expanding the love and joy. But other generations, they worshipped in fear - hated among their neighbors, no real place to call home. What were their plans for the future? Did they have any?
I think they just resigned themselves to redeeming the time.
In a different era, it was easy to live and die in the same town. The community supported your values, watched out for your kids - gave them love, not drugs; modeled responsibility, not rebellion. In those places and times, there was no need to leave. Everything you had was right there.
We could have stayed in Connecticut. Our roots would have been set deep, but they would have been set in the poison that was killing our children. Oh, the children would have probably grown up to live around us - content in their limited educations, ambitions, and souls. After all, there would have always been someone there to party with, someone to assure you that there is no problem with a bar set low - why set it higher? That takes self discipline, sacrifice, hardship and prayer - and hey, there's another party tonight - wanna go?
And so if I come away with any lesson from Rome, it is the lesson of redeeming the time. It may not be the time, the place, the life - we have always dreamed of. But it is the life we got; the time we were born in; the circumstances we have been thrust into. It is, in fact, the only one we've got. Isn't it best we just get on with redeeming it? Isn't it best we take the things we have, grab hold of the hand of Christ, and walk the best way we can through it?
After all, Jesus could have certainly had better circumstances; but he didn't really seem to spend his time worrying about what could have been. He took what he had, loved who he could, and redeemed the time. In fact, if I remember - it seemed He redeemed us too...
Ashley and Susan
Two women asking the world to not just hope, but to Hope in Love.