Back from Scotland

I’m back from Scotland.

I can’t say there were any great epiphanies over the course of the week. I don’t have specific stories of specific moments where I really felt God speaking to me, though I’d say I definitely experienced God’s touch in the way I felt seen and known and understood — by Jay, by the MacRaes, by the authors of books I read along the way, and by quiet moments of reflection.

The favorite part for me, hands down, was the feeling of freedom and “elbow room” we experienced from Wednesday through Saturday, from the grocery store in Perth to the parking lot of Eilean Donan. I don’t think we encountered any other tourists during that entire time! There were some Scottish people traveling for a little overnight or weekend away — but even those were few and far between. We ate good food. We saw beautiful elements of God’s creation. We enjoyed time together as brothers.

The week in Scotland filled my soul on so many levels, like only the best of vacations can do.

It was an entirely satisfactory vacation. But even more than the hikes and sites and moments of joy in Scotland, the week of separation from regular life made me realize how satisfied I am with my regular life.

While we were there, I often had a hard time falling asleep at night: partly because of jet lag, partly because we were sleeping in a camper-van, and partly because of my brother’s snoring. But I appreciated those nights in the camper-van and the way they actually gave me space to do some thinking about everything that’s happened in my life over the last seven years, since our last time together in Scotland. It may not have been the profound “Measuring Stick” that I was wondering about on the front end of the trip, but still there were things I noticed.

I noticed that I’ve been humbled over the last few years — with mistakes and miscalculations I’ve made in ministry. At the same time, I think I’ve grown less fearful and more thankful. I’ve become a more regular pracitioner of the spiritual disciplines, in a way that feels very personal and genuine to me. I’ve developed better communication with Marci. I’ve figured out a fumbling way forward with the parenting of young adolescents and the pastoring of older adolescents and young adults. I’ve found happiness and community in Kent. I love my co-pastors and the talented team that’s been developed (and is still developing) for the future. My physical health is as good as it’s ever been — and even when that eventually starts to fail, I’ve also grown in wisdom enough to not be too bummed by that.

These were the thoughts that would swirl in my head, as I stared at the ceiling of our camper-van at night.

My life isn’t perfect. The support-raising thing (which I’m in the middle of right now) can be a real drag (even while visiting Scotland, I got word of a setback with one of the newest members of our ministry team). The trials and tribulations of college students can be wearisome. The congregation I serve feels younger and younger, as I get older and older. Life with family and friends is often messy… but winding roads can be beautiful roads.

I love my life. I love my wife. I’m surrounded by love, to the point that I have to run away to the Buckeye Trail or the Highlands of Scotland to feel even the tiniest sense of loneliness. I feel grounded — at least for the moment — in my walk with God and the work He’s given me to do. I don’t have much in the way of delusions that I’m ever going to be a world-renown writer or teacher or church-planter or whatever. But I’m satisfied that my middle-aged, middle-class, Midwest ministry life is a good life. It may never rise above the level that most would label “mediocrity,” but that doesn’t really matter.

I’m in a satisfied place. A centered place. And even as the world keeps shifting and struggling through all its ups and downs, I’m freshly resolved to stay centered on God’s goodness and grace as I persevere through the second half of my life.

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