After my return to Thailand from an American Christmas, I’ve felt busy with tasks but terribly unaccomplished; overloaded but unsatisfied. At the end of each day, I lock my office, hoist a leg over my bicycle, and reflect as I slowly pedal home.
My days have seemed static, unproductive, frustrating, and strangely unchallenging. In my journal I identified my situation as not a technical problem in my job, like something I could attribute to the management style of my superiors or something I could blame on organizational bureaucracy. It is obvious to me that my problems are not external. In my journal I wrote, “I’m suffering from a deep lack of vision. What’s true? What’s worthy? What’s the point?” It was apparent to me these questions reflected a spiritual predicament.
Last week, I lay in bed looking up at the wall of dusty books in my room. Half-heartedly, I decided to pray. Admittedly, I wasn’t really sure to what or whom, if anything, I was praying. But I decided to start. “God, I don’t really know what’s going on. What’s going on with me?” The words silently drifted through my mind as I closed my eyes, turned on my side, and fell asleep.
That night I dreamed I was on a hill with a slight incline with large pine trees. It was winter with an inch or two of snow on the ground. There was a slight mist to the air. I was with an old professor, mentor, and friend Jerry Sittser from Whitworth University. Back at Whitworth, Jerry and I spent many hours together in class, drinking coffee, and at our respective homes. His class on religion in American public life was my single favorite course of all university. For one year I lived in the quasi-monastic community he helped establish for recent graduates. During that year he would come over weekly for breakfast and early morning prayers. I often rode to campus with him after breakfast to catch the Hebrew class I TA-ed for. I treasure those times with Jerry… I could go on, but back to the dream.
In the dream we walked together along the snowy hill. I remember feeling glad to be with him but unable to hide my feelings of dissatisfaction with life. Jerry was his usual enthusiastic and caring self as he asked about my life. We walked along until we came to a house, which turned out to be my house in Chiang Mai. We sat down with Esther and Rob in their living room and talked more. We all laughed and shared stories together. Throughout the dream I went from my initial feelings of insecurity and doubt to feeling a sense of joy and security. And then I woke up.
The images and feelings of the dream stayed with me throughout the morning and I decided to look on Kindle for Jerry’s most recent book, A Grace Revealed. Having read his books in the past and missing my university days, I decided to buy it and started reading it during my lunch break. In Chapter one, he talks about the word redemption. While relegated mostly to religious jargon or shallowly applied to salvation, he recast the word as a transformation of God – claiming us and weaving our stories together with His story; using us to continually live out the story of the gospel. “Redemption is the work of Jesus Christ applied to the unfolding story of life… You are not beyond God’s redemptive reach – not now, not ever.”
Encouraging words for a young tired soul.
I’m wandering. I’m living out a story in my life. Sometimes it’s hard and I lack vision and hope. But there’s a lot to be thankful for. I’m thankful for Jerry – his mentorship, books, classes, and prayers. I’m thankful for a voicemail he left me once that I kept on my phone for years when he called just to see how I was doing. I remember he ended the voicemail with, “Peace be with you, brother.” Even more so, I’m thankful for the ways God works in our lives, ever intertwining our stories – no matter how lost – with His ultimate story of redemption.
I love you all.
Let the journey continue.