Humility and Roots

I learned a couple of things about myself as I travelled last month.

The first: that it takes a lot of humility to continually receive hospitality and I’m not very good at that.
The second: I’m no nomad, I need roots.

I loved visiting with my friends. It was . . . well, there aren’t really words that quantify how wonderful it was to see them again and in their natural environments too. To see their places of work, where they go to school, to meet their friends and family members, to visit their churches, and share their favourite eateries, was a privilege I was so grateful for. It’s really great to be able to put people in their contexts and now when we talk I’ll know exactly where they are speaking about!
I did find it hard, though, to continually be the one receiving. I desperately wanted to reciprocate their kindness but didn’t have the means to. If we lived in the same place I would have them round for dinner, or over to stay for a couple of nights but I just had to sit back and accept their generosity.
It was a really humbling experience. The situation makes you vulnerable; you’re completely dependent upon another individual, incapable of purchasing or attaining for yourself by any other means the services which they are fulfilling for you, services which you would be lost, homeless and hungry without. You are at their mercy.
When that mercy is gladly given, it humbles you further. That people would care about you so much to welcome you into their home, to go out of their way to accommodate you, to forego studying for their finals for you(!), you realise how undeserving you are of such kindness and how deeply blessed.

Before I left for California I had a conversation with one of my pastors around commitment to a place. I talked about my desire for adventure, the part of me that longs to leave everything behind and just set off into the sunset, not knowing where my feet might take me. Such a dreamer. In my head I thought I would be the nomad, the lonely wanderer picking up friends along the road. My pastor suggested that it was more natural, and more necessary, for us to have a centre of gravity, a place from which we could flow. He described people he knew who had tried to maintain two centres of gravity over a period of time but found it incredibly difficult and ended up choosing one place over another. So what, I thought. Doesn’t mean I won’t be successful in having no centre of gravity but simply floating as though on a cloud. (I hope you’re sensing the sarcasm here).
Just two weeks of spending no more than two nights in any one bed was enough to teach me that I am not a natural nomad. I do not thrive on that.
I want to be in one place for a significant amount of time and really be there. I want to know its secrets, its hidden gems. I want to know what makes it tick. I want to feel it. And I want to be in a place with purpose. I like to get involved, to know what’s going on in the community and contribute. Otherwise, I never really feel at peace in a place.
It’s not an easy realisation for me to accept. It sounds to me like I’m going to have to settle down in one place and there is nothing that I want less. The idea of settling, accepting less than adventure, horrifies me. Yet I have to hold that in tension with a desire and need to put down roots. Deep.
I wrestled for a lot of my trip with whether or not I would ever repeat it without returning to Scotland. I guess I partly went out to get some answers on that front. After a lot of wandering round San Francisco, whispered prayers and shouted grievances, conversations with people wiser than myself, I think I hear God saying that I’ve to go ahead and put down roots as deep as I like here in Edinburgh. I need not be scared that in a year’s time I’ll painfully have to pull myself out again, either because I’m not leaving or because, when that time comes, He will have prepared me.
The door to the USA is not closing tight. It’s got more of a revolving thing going on. And being here does not mean settling or saying no to adventure. It’s just a different kind of adventure. San Francisco may prove to be a place of refreshment and learning in the time ahead but it will not be home in the foreseeable future.
My roots are planted here.

Humbled

I don’t know about you but, it seems very easy for my world to become very small, very quickly.

My “problems” suddenly become the only thing I can see.

My “issues” become the only thing I focus on.

My “worries” become the purpose of my day.

I’m engulfed by sheer selfishness.

The reality is they are nothing: pitifully nothing.

When two hundred thousand people have died on the other side of the world, what right do I have to complain about anything?

I’ve been humbled a few times this past week.

I’ve been reminded of the good that I forget to see.

I’ve been reminded that I am not the centre of any universe, the most important person in any realm. I’m tiny tiny small.

I’ve been reminded that my “suffering” is nothing. Nothing.

Mark Driscoll, Pastor at Mars Hill Church in Seattle, has been tweeting from Haiti today. Things like this:

Just bought ice cream for a hundred kids sleeping outside. Heard gunshot behind me a teenage boy got shot in head and died immediately

I’m not letting myself get wrapped up in the little things tomorrow. Life is bigger than those things. I’m moving on.

Learning about yourself is scary

I’ve been doing a lot of thinking over the past week (dangerous, I know!) and God’s been teaching me a lot of stuff. 

Firstly, is just how much I have to learn. I know people consider me to be mature and responsible etc. but the reality is I’m just a seventeen year old kid who’s petrified and a bit lost in the world – trying to figure out too many things at once! I’m blessed in that I’m surrounded by people who are older and wiser and willing to share that wisdom. I need to listen more and be more gracious in accepting it.

The rest kind of follows on from that. The big thing is humility. In reality God doesn’t need me at all, instead he CHOOSES to use me. That’s incredible. It never fails to amaze me. And, even though I think I’m a useless chicken, He can use me. But just because He has work for me to do, He is not reliant on me; I am not going to screw up His plan. He will cause His will to be, whether I’m a part of that or not.

I also need to be patient. Not something I’m in any way good at, no matter how many times God has shown me its importance, I just never learn! I might want to change the world, I might want to do it now, but, as one of those wiser people told me yesterday: “Start with small steps – and learn to be patient with all the church and people stuff”.  Even Christ didn’t come with an army that swept through the world and changed it all to be the way He wanted. No, He started small – as a carpenter from Galilee with a bunch of random misfits for followers who He sent out to change the world one tiny little bit at a time.

I’ve always thought I was one of those people who was all about the detail and the planning, the practicalities and realities but maybe I’m more of a dreamer and more about the “big-picture”. I’ve got big dreams but have to realise they’re big because they’re God’s and He can deal with big. I’m only little and He’ll give me enough of the weight to bare as I can manage but no more – I have to take the little steps which will be a part of His big plan.

As Mother T said: “Small things with great love”. 

And there’s a poster in school too which says: “Never say it is only a drop in the ocean; the whole ocean is made up of drops”.

And someone else also wrote: “The big things are easily noticed but not a sparrow falls to the ground without our Heavenly father knowing; he does not despise the small acts of faith by those who seem insignificant”.

So, once more back to trying to figure it out. Time to take more deep breaths and remember again: one day at a time.