I was sitting at my desk, with one cat slung across my lap and the other attacking pages as they were spit out of the printer. I was newly married, cold-calling advocates about some dangerous legislation and giving myself a pep-talk about moving to NoWhereVille, SC where we’d learned The Gentleman would next be stationed with the Army.
I was desperate for a break from awkward phone conversations, so I set the phone aside and started typing up a report. Naturally, it immediately rang. It was The Gentleman.
“What do you think about Hawaii?” he asked.
“I went there when I was a kid and it was fun, why?” I responded, distracted by my work.
“No,” he continued, “What do you think about living in Hawaii?”
With that, he had my full attention. I don’t really recall the rest of the conversation, but I know that my heart rate increased and I had a feeling of dread. I remember The Gentleman’s superior officer in the background shouting something like “C’mon, it’s Hawaii!!” as I stammered through the conversation trying to be non-committal and non-negative all at once.
Learning that I’d leave my beloved home state of North Carolina, not for its next-door neighbor South Carolina, but for the furthest American soil possible was an unbelievable and unwelcomed surprise. I’ve already addressed my misgivings about that slap-in-the-face surprise, but I’ve not adequately expressed the great mercy such a startling change has been for The Gentleman and I.
Before we moved, The Gentleman and I clung to some typical American ideals: we worked our butts off for financial success, we spent weekends improving the look and feel of our home, we juggled social obligations and gym time and long commutes and generally ran ourselves ragged. We were throttling down that pursuit-of-happiness path with an awful blindness and an enormous cartful of baggage.
My relationship with God has often involved well-timed smacks in the face. My memory tells me I’ve always learned from doing more than from being told and it’s clear that God knows he needs to shake me up from time to time if I’m to keep growing. He shook me big time when he put in motion a move that would break down every comfortable and known thing in my life and replace them with drastically different things.
In his great mercy, God thrust us into a place where we must truly live in community with his other children: y’all, you can’t get away from people in Hawaii. We’re packed in here like sardines!
He ripped endless work hours (and, at least for me, the related reimbursement) out from under us and reminded us that letting our professional lives eat us up in the name of more stuff was a road to death.
He snatched us away from beloved family and friends, not to remove them from our hearts and lives, but to force us to rely more on him.
He moved us to a place where traffic is unbelievable, so walking is easier than driving (really, y’all) and the mountains and ocean are within an arm’s reach and temperatures inside buildings get uncomfortable during the day. As a result we are outside and moving more and are healthier than we’ve been in ten years.
Here we are, with fewer things, less peace and quiet, a smaller house, more traffic, fewer nearby friends…and happier, healthier, more peaceful and stronger.
That phone call a year ago was not the kind of surprise I like. It made me intensely uncomfortable and saddled me with anxiety for months. If only my faith had been in the right place –with God instead of with me – maybe I could’ve seen that God was stirring things up as an act of incredible mercy.
Linking up with Jenn for Mercy Mondays.