I just got off the phone with our son, Andrew, who flew to St. Louis yesterday. He's there for a 10-day conference before he ships out to Bahrain in a couple of weeks. His Italy experience is over now, and his heart is already aching for Tuscany, his home for 12 months.
I'm thinking about the courage it takes to fall in love with a place you know you're going to have to leave. It's a common dilemma for people who have short assignments; six months, a year, maybe two at the most. There's always this choice: Do I make my self vulnerable, throw caution to the wind, and jump in with both feet... or do I keep my distance; cautious, holding back, guarded - safe?
I've known people (I know people) who approach relationships the same way; "Let's not take the risk of something too meaningful, you know we'll be moving in a year." Or churches; "We're going to just hover around the edges and not take on any serious relationships." And faith; "I'll hedge my bets with this God thing; no point in putting myself out there."
But Andrew didn't waste a single minute in Italy. While many Americans working in and around the base lived in close proximity to one another, cooked hamburgers, watched American television, and tried to replicate U.S. culture while talking about what was wrong with living oversees... Andrew rented a villa in a village where he was the only English speaker, learned the language, made friends with Italians, put together a series of "awesome Italian adventures", opened his heart, and made himself vulnerable.
One part of this observation is that my son is living like he means it. If he hadn't lived Italy with such enthusiasm he wouldn't be hurting now he's left. But it's an orientation to life that he's going to gift Bahrain with as well, and it's going to serve him (and those around him) well.
The other part is that so many of us shrink back from living as if we mean it because our experience of this world is that it holds so little in the way of grace. We experience pain when we give ourselves away, in large part because we don't live in loving, selfless community; we don't live in authentic covenant community; nowhere near enough of us live Gospel lives.
So we hold back, we build walls around ourselves, we fail to relate to other people at the point of our deepest need, and we replicate that experience where ever we go.
My son Andrew lives with unusual courage and he is having adventures most of us are too timid to miss... But it shouldn't take that much courage to live that well. We live in what singer/songwriter Don Henley referred to as "Such a graceless age" (The Heart of the Matter).
My commitment, this week, is to do what I can to move the bar back in favor of more grace.
Love and blessings -DEREK