Where Else Would I Go?

For the first time in a (very) long time, my heart suddenly feels quiet. 

I'm not sure of why exactly.


Maybe having finally finished the last requirement for Wheaton and, for the first time in almost three years, not having a nagging (or screaming!) feeling in the back of my mind reminding me that I should be doing some reading or writing a response or researching something or preparing for a class.

Maybe, having lived in Sichuan for two and a half years, the incredibly (and I do mean that in the most literal possible sense) slow pace of walking has finally sunk into my body.  Although I still find myself setting out from my apartment at a briskly purposeful American stride, more and more often I find that it slows to a stroll by the time I'm halfway across campus, even if I'm not hanging out with students.  And I notice the irises growing everywhere, the strange patterns of ripples on the surface of the small lake on campus as ducks chase each other across the water. 

Maybe two years or so of reflecting on a blog post that Caleb shared with me is finally translating into some measure of assent from my heart and not just my head.  (It's well worth the read.)

Maybe reading and discussing the first chapter of In His Image last week with teammates has re-centered my attention, as it so often needs, on the crucial importance of focusing on being before focusing on doing.  I'm good at doing.  I like how I can do things and check them off. 

Maybe it's the realization that I have eleven weeks, more or less, left in this place.  Eleven.  Which sounds like so much less than twelve.  And when everything is winding down, when the end-of-contract date is approaching and the date on my residence permit is getting closer, I feel again a bit like I did preparing to leave Bloomington, like this is some terminal illness.  The question of what matters, really pushes to the forefront of my mind.  Certainly I should plan lessons and teach well, eat meals with students and buy groceries, spend time in the office and sleep and hang laundry and study with my teammates.  But last night as I enjoyed our spring weather and walked around the track, I was struck by the thought: This -- this spending time talking to the Father and listening to Him -- this is by far the best gift and legacy that I can leave.  It is less tangibly productive than all of my human ideals of productivity and accomplishment, but preparing to leave a place and people that I so dearly love has a way of clarifying what matters, what will really last. 

Peter's words keep coming to me:

"To whom will we go?  You have the words of eternal life."

and they are echoed in two songs that keep playing in my head.

Matt Maher's Your Love Defends Me


Andrew Peterson's Always Good


Lines of T. S. Eliot's poetry, too, dance through my mind.

Teach us to care and not to care
Teach us to sit still.
[Ash Wednesday]

And would it have been worth it, after all,
Would it have been worth while,
After the sunsets and the dooryards and the sprinkled streets,
After the novels, after the teacups, after the skirts that trail along the floor --
And this, and so much more? --
It is impossible to say just what I mean!
[The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock]

As I walk around campus under a sky that threatens imminent thunderstorms, I find my eyes filling with tears even as my heart is quiet.  It's the right time to be preparing to go back to the US, even as three years ago it was right to be getting ready to come back to China.  Peter's words, "To whom will we go?" Where else would I go? feel very relevant; my life has been one of following Him, although not perfectly and with plenty of arguing and trying to tug away to go down other paths that look more efficient or more enjoyable.  But at the end of the day, I'm with Peter -- compelled by the recognition that only One has the words of eternal life, the words that I need. 

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