Tuesday, June 25, 2013

God and U-Haul

Abram and Sarai Redux

Mismatched Truck and Trailer: A Metaphor?

I've always liked Abraham. At times he could show admirable courage (e.g. rescuing Lot) and at other times disappointing weakness (e.g. hiding behind his wife's skirt). These are triumphs and failures of his faith. I can identify once in awhile with the strength but mostly with the weaknesses of Abraham's faith. My faith has experienced  a few victories and not a few defeats. 

Lately I've been thinking about Abram's setting out with his whole household for where he knew not. God told him to go, and he went to a land God would not then show him. He was 75 and his wife was 65 when their lives changed radically. Of course, Sarah had almost half her life before her (died at 127), and Abraham would live another 100 years. I presume that in terms of vitality and strength 75 and 65 were not then what they are today. Still, they had lived in Ur and then Haran for 65 and 75 years, had established a household, and were rooted in the life of a civilization. Leaving meant giving up the life they had known, and going meant accepting the unknown and uncertainty.

Us on 44th Anniversary - Wilmington, NC
I am 65 and my Sarai somewhat younger. Recently we set out  from Missisippi where we  had lived a cumulative 27 years, or half of our married life, to move to Roanoke, Virginia. When we left Mississippi on May 31, we knew where we were headed, but, because of a comedy (not so funny then) of errors in processing our lease, not where we would live. At one time we were told we might not get a lease because a background check indicated I was married to a criminal. Had she been told this about me, it would have been no shock; but it was quite a shock to us both to find out she might have a record. It was only in the first hours after we arrived that we were able to secure our place to live. In fact, because of mess ups in the home office, we still do not have a final signed lease. 

The whole move has involved frustration. To give one other instance, a certain man with my name and birthdate has haunted me for 20 years now when I try to obtain a driver's license. His license has been suspended in TN all these years. He has followed me to Pensylvania, Mississippi, and now to Virginina. Just yesterday I received notice that my intially granted VAdriver's license will be suspended because the TN suspension popped up on the national data base. As I write, I am wating to see if information I have supplied to TN is sufficient for them to notify VA that I am not THAT William H. Smith. I was also told that there is nothing that can be done about the fact that this name and birthdate are in the national data base; so, assuming the situation in VA can be cleared up, if I ever move to another state, this will likely come up again. As I recall, Abraham had his frustrations, too. Like quarelling herdsmen and wives and never owning any part of the land promised to him except a burial spot he bought after a lot of haggling.

Our lives have been in more or less a state of upheaval for nearly 10 years. During this time we have never felt nor have we been settled. It is enough to say that mistakes have been made and mysterious providences experienced.   Lack of normalcy has become the new normal. There has been a certain amount of disappointment and disillusionment, and, sadly, our experience of the church has not been the exception. Encouragement has come from some of those from whom it might be least expected, and been withheld by some from whom it might be most expected. 

We had felt for some time that, if you took out family relationships and one friendship, we had and would have no life in the Jackson area. But to go or stay? At least we knew what life was like in Jackson. If go, where? I suggested only half jokingly that maybe we should move to place like Wyoming where, unlike MS, people don't care who you are or where you came from. The un-Cheers, where nobody knows your name. Maybe, we could be turned loose and set free somewhere in the middle of Montana.

We have found that which is always true though not always felt - life is not predicatable and not very manageable. It is hard to accept, though it is demonstrably true, the truth Abraham knew when he was told to leave his home: we have here no continuing city.

Calvin  and Kim
It is a mysterious and hard providence that has brought us to Roanoke. In May of 2010 our daughter-in-law, Kim Smith, was diagnosed with stage 4 breast cancer. After a valiant but losing battle, she died at age 39 on November 10 of last year. Our son, Calvin, became a widower and our two grandsons, Josh and Jackson, became motherless. And Calvin has experienced several episodes of unexplained pancreatitis, two requiring hospitalization. Just today we were at the hospital with him for a procedure which may help.

After several months of arranging care for the boys and of the home, and after much conversation and consideration, and many prayers, it was mutually decided that the best thing was for us to move to Roanoke to help. So, Susan resigned from her job, applied to join me as a Social Security recipient, and packed our things. By far the most difficult thing was leaving behind two sons and six grandkids. The highlight of most weeks for us was having some or all of them in our home for Sunday dinners. 

When I checked on the truck I had reserved a full month in advance, I found that there was no truck available. Earth, if not heaven, was moved, and one was brought in from out of town. When the men arrived to load the truck, they informed us that it would not hold our belongings. Back into the truck to go get a trailer. The company from which we got the truck does not do trailers, so we ended up with a truck and a trailer from different companies. Here was another comedy, though I wasn't laughing. 

If we believed in signs, we would think that God was telling us we made a big mistake making the decision to move to Roanoke. But then Abraham got to the place God told him he would be blessed and soon there was a famine, and he was off to Egypt to get something to eat. Signs, signs, everywhere signs, but do they say "do this" or "don't do that"? We can't read the signs. One of the most liberating truths I have ever learned is that the only revelation from God you can rely on is the Bible, and there is no verse  saying, "Go," or "Don't go to Roanoke." Unlike Abraham we did not move because we heard the voice of God. God has made us grownups who have to make the best decisions we can with the best information and counsel we can get, and trust him for the outcomes. 

Josh and Jackson Smith
So here we are. Keeping house. Cooking meals. Taking care of two little boys. Doing what comes next. Not knowing what we are doing - which is where we were when we had 5 little boys - and, as we always have, muddling through. The main difference is that we were a lot younger the last time we did this. We try to eat our Raw Bits cereal each morning, because they help people get up in the morning and do what needs to be done.

Some folks have made kind comments on facebook and in private messages about our decision. I won't presume to speak for the management, but I know these nice comments are not true of me. No hero. No great blessing to others. No spiritual, self-sacrificing person. This is no attempt at modesty, false or otherwise. Just the simple truth.

Most of the Clan
If anything about this is worth noting, it is that we have been guided by a principle we have tried to live by. When it comes to family and to close friends, you do what needs to be done. That is not to say we have always made the right decisions, or that I have never contradicted the principle. But, we believe that what we're supposed to do is what needs to be done. Sometimes you just have to suck it up and do it. In our view, this is one of the reasons God made family and friendships. These are the people you are supposed to be there for no matter what. In this case there was a need; it seemed that for now at least we were the ones who could meet it; so we felt we should do it.

We have no idea how long our health will be adequate to the tasks. Nor what things will change in the next few years. But we trust that, however haltingly, we believe in a God who makes something of nothing and who will raise the dead to fulfill his promises. While living as fully as possible in this earthly city, we hope we are seeking a permanent city whose builder and maker is God.

Meanwhile, pass the Raw Bits, please.

1 comment:

Lee said...

You should likely rotate the Raw Bits with bowls of Mournful Oatmeal (Calvinism in a Box) just for a change of pace.