I plan to post several reflections on our past two weeks in California, but I’m going to work my way backwards. Mostly because our return home was pretty traumatic.
We got up at 5 am, west coast time, said tearful goodbyes and drove to SFO (where we said more tearful goodbyes). A small blessing happened at the airport when we were able to get Marina her own seat (although that did mean I had to sit a row ahead of the rest of the fam).
Everything kind of went downhill from there. Overall, M did fine on the plane, but she’s done better (she only slept 20 minutes). I came down with a head cold the day before and wasn’t feeling so hot during most of the flight.
When we finally landed in Boston (6 pm east coast time), feeling sick and tired, Stacey picked us up, we ate some dinner, and finally got home just before 8 pm. And then things got crazy.
We got everything up stairs and turned on our heat (a sad fact, in and of itself, after being in California for two weeks), and less than a minute later our house was full of smoke and the smell of smoke. Turns out there was some kind of water leak down stairs while were gone, and we’re still not sure what exactly happened but there was no way we were all sleeping in our house in that condition (today we are home, but we are still trying to fix all of this).
So, we gathered everything up again and headed to Stacey’s house (thank you for being so close and for house sitting this week). As we were hurriedly trying to get everyone and everything in the car the back gate of the Jeep falls on me and pops out my shoulder. This shoulder has been troublesome for a long time, but this episode was particularly gruesome and given the circumstances I did not handle it well.
We finally got everyone in bed sometime around 9:30. What a day.
My immediate reaction to all this? Let’s go back!
Which leads me to some thoughts I jotted down on the plane: during the week students were around, we got to hear from several great people we are connected to about how they are radically living out the ways of Jesus. Everyone who shared did a great job and challenged our group to think and act more like Jesus.
I most enjoyed listening to Ben, the lead pastor of Cypress (the church that housed our group for the week). I thought Ben shared a number of things that were extremely applicable to our students, but one significant idea stood out to me.
Ben talked about his process of growth as a person, and as a leader, and he stressed the importance of faithfulness in the small things. He said that when he tried really hard to be good at the small things, at whatever was right in front of him, then the next thing, the future, seemed to naturally make itself clear. When he stressed about the next thing, and neglected the present, everything seemed more muddled.
So Ben’s advice to our students: just be awesome at whatever you are doing right now, and then when the next thing comes, be awesome at that (which sounds very cool in an Australian accent).
A lot of our students are facing transitions: graduation, starting a new phase of their program, marriage, internships, new jobs, moving from the first half of college to the second half, all kinds of transitions.
It’s common for students to be looking ahead. As a result it is difficult to be present, and it is difficult to see the value in whatever they are involved in right now.
And it’s common for me to do the same thing: to look ahead, but also to want to run back.
Ben gave us a good word: just be awesome at school, awesome at work, awesome at being a college student, and when the next phase starts be awesome at being a PT student, or a seminary student, or a new spouse, or a new employee.
And when the next phase starts with all of its new challenges and difficulties: don’t turn around and run backwards. Last night I did not feel like I was awesome in any way, and it’s actually in those moments that our faithfulness is most tested.
Be awesome at the little things, and big things will come!