I’ve been on the road and away from home for 7 weeks now. In a way a feel a little bit like an Old West Explorer, someone who set out from what was comfortable and normal in the reckless hope that the unknown ahead would be better than the current reality.
I left for this summer a little bit weary and battle worn. The last two years have been, arguably, pretty crazy . At the very end of summer two years ago my close friend Pat died, catapulting me into what I didn’t realize would be quite a long season of tumultuous unknowns and life going very differently than I expected. It started with grieving Pat, then transitioned into student teaching a class of boys with the label “emotional disturbance” and all of the realities that come with that. Student teaching led to real life teaching and year one brought with it 3 people shot and killed outside my classroom, days where I got in my car and cried, and even more days where I got in my car and couldn’t cry because I was too tired to feel anything besides burdened and exhausted and not-enough. I loved my kids, but the job wasn’t what I expected so I resigned and then twiddled my thumbs and waited around for someone else to hire me. It was this sequence of events that landed me at the doorstep of Summer 2017. Of course, this backdrop doesn’t paint the full picture of my last two years and undoubtably there were a thousand magical lovely glory-filled moments that stand out to me, but nonetheless that season was a weary one and I’m learning it’s okay to admit that. It’s not a season I would trade for anything, and I owe about 5 future blog posts to the immense gifts these last 2 years have brought, but I’ll write those later and for now be honest about some of these less highlight reel worthy feelings in the hopes I can paint a true portrait of all God has taught me this summer.
So I came to the start of Summer keenly aware that I needed something but still entirely unsure of what it was. I actually told my friends right before I left Nashville that what I thought I really needed was 3 weeks of sleeping in, watching Netflix in my bed, and someone to pay all of my bills for me. What I had instead was a plane ticket to Port Au Prince leaving in 3 days.
Praise the Lord that his plans are always infinitely better than my own. I boarded the plane to Haiti hoping the summer would provide some respite and peace. What I found when I landed was so much better. In Neply, I found the treasure of the Gospel, the one that is worth selling all I have for the sweetness of going where Jesus has called me. Like Christopher Columbus- who set his sights for India and ended up discovering America instead (I realize this is historically inaccurate but please roll with my metaphor here), I had a vague set of directions and thought I had a destination in mind but found something far greater than I ever could have imagined. I thought I was bound for Neply, and Telluride and a nice vacation but I was really headed for the Kingdom itself. And more importantly, I realized this kingdom is worth trading absolutely everything for, that I would do it joyfully.
Matthew 13 tells us that ““The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field. When a man found it, he hid it again, and then in his joy went and sold all he had and bought that field.” I don’t know how to describe what I learned this summer better than that.
I went to Haiti because I knew God had called me there. I sold what I had to get there- leaving my friends, my paycheck, my comfortable bed and my dreams of Netflix. When I stepped on that plane to Haiti- burnt out and cynical, I followed Jesus where he was calling me even when I didn’t particularly feel like it. I gave him everything I had EVEN after two long years of doing the same thing and wondering if it was worth it.In biblical metaphor terms- I bought the field.
It was in this dirt field, or in my quite literal case rural sugar cane village, that I stubbed my stubborn toe on the real treasure of Christ- the kingdom eternal hiding out in plain sight. I was walking around tired and cynical, doubting God’s provision and relying on myself, and despite all of that discovered the very good news that my mouth had been saying the last two years, but inwardly I’d been doubting if it was really that good at all.And dang it if it wasn’t the best trade I ever made. I entered this wild season expecting and hopeful that I could uncover this one chest I believed to be hidden there, and upon arrival found there were coins hidden under every single row and corner, abundance like I never could have imagined. Christ’s presence in measures like I’ve never before seen, blessing and favor and joy jammed into every single nook and cranny of the month- real life change happening before my very eyes, miracles I never thought I’d get to witness.
Haiti showed me that it really is good, the trade we make when we give up all we’ve got to buy a field where we THINK Jesus is- it’s worth it! It’s a gift to love people near and far, thankful and hesitant, after a full 8 hours of sleep and when we’ve been up all night. And more importantly, it’s a gift to follow Jesus. It’s a gift to hear his voice and to go where he calls and discover him there. When God called me to Haiti he had very good plans in mind, and those plans could be trusted. God himself can be trusted.
The sweetness of the Gospel is this: the treasure of the Kingdom is worth so much more than we could possibly imagine.
So I’m coming back to Nashville, expectant and hopeful. Even though Haiti is where I discovered the worth of this field- , that doesn’t mean the Kingdom is limited to a village outside of Port Au Prince. The Kingdom is wherever Jesus has called us, wherever he is leading us to walk. The Kingdom of Heaven is always underfoot when I’m willing to abandon my possessions in order to inherit it. In Nashville, the call to abandon is just as sweet and the payoff is just as good as it was in Haiti. It’s worth it. The treasure of the Gospel- selling all I’ve got for the sake of going where Christ has called me- is a joy and a privilege. I’m ready for this next year to walk and plow the fields God has called me to, and to seek out all that I might find there. This Kingdom hidden in plain sight is the sweetest paradox I’ve ever found. How sweet to walk with a God who turns boring ordinary dusty fields into plantations full of his glory and splendor. How sweet that he invites us to walk it with him.