Sunday, August 27, 2017

The Year of the Hurricane

1 year ago this week Theo and I caught the last flight into Tallahassee's airport before Hurricane Hermine. We had planned to leave the following day, but made last minute changes when we saw the weather. Jonathan was already there, camping out in an empty house and getting ready to start teaching.

We had known we'd be moving to Tallahassee for 16 months before moving day actually arrived, and yet the last minute change in plans, the cancelled goodbye dinner planned for the following day, the chaotic hustle to check out of work early, the scramble to get an airport ride and hours on hold with the airline made the move feel sudden. It felt like rushing out of a birthday party because your kid fell and broke his arm, even though you knew you were going to leave just 30 minutes later anyway.

Despite starting off with a dramatic storm and a week without power, the year was less like a storm, and more like an intense sports match. There were notable highs and lows which caused cheers and tears, but the majority of the time was spent in a high power dance between defense and offense. I'm not sure who won or lost, or even really who the opponent was - perhaps my expectations, my past, my future hopes? I definitely did battle with several thousand mosquitoes.

Still, it was a stormy start, and the analogy of "rebuilding life" after a major event, like a hurricane, feels apt. I found myself often torn this year between the desire to rebuild what I used to have and what was familiar, with the reality that those habits and patterns don't all fit into life in a new place. When people talk of rebuilding after a storm, they rarely rebuild the exact same house, in the exact same spot. Their favorite elements remain the same, I would think- perhaps the location, or the style of home, or how big it is. But an exact replication would be, if anything, foolish. A new home should be safer, sturdier. It would be foolish to plan for a new home and keep the faults - the creaky floors or sticky windows or awkwardly shaped kitchen - of the old home. The past should inform the present, but not limit it from growth.

There was nothing so perfect about my life in DC that it warranted replicating so exactly. And yet, I struggled not to replicate it because at least I knew how to live life in that structure. But, just like new wine will rip open old wine skins, a new city and job and space literally did not fit into expectations and daily life strategies that worked well in a different city and season of life. What I needed was not skills in memorization - the repetition of words and concepts that don't change. What I needed was wisdom - the application of skills and concepts learned but applied to a life that is dynamic.

Wisdom has the ability to fully hold the past and present (and sometimes the future) at the same time, to see and know them both, and to act in accordance with that truth and knowledge. Wisdom doesn't rebuild the old, it creates the new. Creation is a lot more work than replication. Better and more fruitful, to be sure, but more work.

I'd like to think that a year after our hurricane, we've got a solid foundation build. There are even some metaphorical walls and decorations up. Still, for better or worse, I get a lot of comfort from moments that remind me of more familiar life patterns - long weekend walks, the diversity of people seen in public spaces, the familiar frustration of healthcare system. They are sweet moments of God saying, "here I am." Because, unlike my wisdom, which is ever-lacking despite feeling like I'm constantly growing, God's wisdom- His ability to be true to past, present, future, and self all at once, and to act accordingly- is not lacking, and is that constant companion calling out, "here I am."

This year was not about starting new, because God is too kind to give us blank slates to work with. It wasn't about re-building the old, because, well, I tried that at first and it didn't work! It was about learning to need and find and grow in the wisdom of a Creator whose constraints are not location and experience and comfort, but rather goodness and truth and beauty.

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