the long way home

a few weeks ago, i had a dream. one of those dreams that stays with you, not just into the waking hours, but days later. some dreams are just that–dreams, nothing more. but this one… i remain convinced this one meant something, means something still.

in my dream, i was at a graduation of sorts. i was waiting backstage in my cap and gown, ready to walk across the stage and into a new future. the strange thing? the graduation took place in Liberia, just outside the red metal gate of the team house, the same one i called home for four and a half years. with my graduation came my departure from Liberia; in the dream, i inexplicably knew that i’d soon be headed back to the States. so, while i was waiting around for my name to be called, i decided to take a walk around the perimeter of the house, make sure everything was closed up and locked.

my team was there, waiting for me. many people breezed through Liberia during my time there, but there was a core group of us that worked together, served together, did life together, for such a lengthy season. and so, after my walk around the yard, i joined them and turned over my keys. and it was then that i started to weep. i knew i’d see them again; that wasn’t my problem. what was difficult was the knowledge that everything was changing, is changing even now.

along with my keys, i took off four rings i’d been wearing, each symbolizing a block of time that changed my life: one i’d worn through my high school days, one through college, one from my first marriage, and one from my time in Liberia. i took them off, and held them in my hands, and cried so deeply i started to shake.

and then i woke up.

still, weeks later, this dream has remained with me. i’ve wrestled with it, prayed over it, held it up to the light to get a closer look. and here is what i know.

i am on the verge of a brand new, exciting season in my life–and that also means all the other seasons before have to end. i’m getting ready to start this incredible chapter, and i couldn’t be happier, truly. yet it’s still natural to grieve what was, i think. especially Liberia. that was a huge part of my life, my story. i’ve been thinking a lot about it, actually. particularly about my team, how i’d love for us to all to be together once again. in Liberia, we went through so much together. sickness. children who left this world too soon. culture shock. the art of sacrifice. learning to live in community. the balancing act of ministry and regular old life. discovering how to love God–and ourselves–better. being Jesus to not only each other but to the constant needs that surrounded us. burnouts. breakdowns. heartbreak. putting others before ourselves. homesickness. wrestling with the call…

that last one, i did that a lot. i knew God had called me to Liberia, but as time went on and i became more weary, i started to resent it. instead of it being joy to serve, it felt heavy. forced upon me. i felt like i’d been banished to exile–and maybe, in a way, i had been.

see, i didn’t feel released from Liberia until i’d learned what i needed to from that proverbial desert. learned that obedience, even when it’s difficult, is pleasing. learned that hard work is often worthy work, holy work. learned that life didn’t care about my timelines, my carefully constructed plans. learned that i couldn’t help every child, but i could help one at a time–and that was enough.

learned that God’s calling looked very differently than what i thought it did. maybe it isn’t this one, big, catch-it-or-you-miss-it-forever, once in a lifetime kind of thing. maybe walking with Jesus meant that life became a series of calls–some here, some there, some unexpected, some for a week, a year. maybe healing my heart wounds in a counselor’s office every tuesday was a call, one to health, and wholeness. maybe teaching underprivileged youth was a call, one to patience and mercy. maybe writing love letters to orphans in Liberia was a call, one to encouragement and steadfastness. maybe using my words wisely and writing out my story on this lil’ ol’ blog was a call, one to transparency and being vulnerable, to hold others’ hurts, to make space, to say, “me, too”.

maybe merging my life with with world’s most loving, most compassionate, most patient, most extraordinary man–maybe this is a call, too. a call to believe in better stories. to have faith in redemption with skin on. to see beauty from ashes.

maybe all these things were just as much a call as my four and a half years in Liberia. maybe they’re neither better nor worse, neither less important nor more. maybe it all matters.

maybe i’m just one of those people meant to take the long way home.


photo from flickr; creative commons