It’s been such a different day today….. obviously being home, and not in Cali (!), it being Ireland, so it rained a lot yesterday and today (nothing changes here – the old church adage!), though it did hover around 18-19 degrees….
What was so good about it was that I could go to my online USA bank account, and CANCEL (Yeah!!!!) all the monthly payments for the house – the utilities, the insurance, you name it…. it was a feeling like shackles coming off, and will obviously make life a little easier this end without that open drain sucking money into it. 4½ years has come to an end: and a 17 year-long ‘relationship'(?? – hmm!) with Virginia.
During those 4½ years, I’ve learned so much:
- learned to let go of what I think is ‘security’ – yet again – and to hold possessions lightly
- learned to hand over to God, increasingly, every aspect of my life, my plans, my ideas for where my life should go
- learned to love being back in the UK again, and find some lovely rest in Northern Ireland, something I realise – now – that I never did in the USA
- learned to let go of possessions – again (4th time!) though of course a small percentage of what was ‘home’ (though I realise too that it never was) has come back here now
- learned, like right back at the beginning of moving into ‘ministry’ (what does that mean, really? – it’s just following, or trying to follow, where God is leading, and sometimes dragging, me) – to trust him for every penny, particularly with two homes to pay rent/bills for. He’s good at doing that…..!
- learned to be willing to live ‘without’ only to find that God blesses you more when you lower your own demands!
- learned to appreciate true friends, and hospitality – looking back on 3 years in the States (though I was actually only there for 22% of that time: how do I know that? You ought to go through the US immigration process if you want to know what real ‘red tape’ is!), the only home I was ever invited to, as a single bloke, for a meal, was to the ex-pastor and his wife’s home. Really. No one else. In the USA, hospitality seems to be ‘eating out’ after church on a Sunday morning…. other non-American friends (no nmaes, I’ve not asked their permission!) who’ve lived in the States for 10 times longer than me, and have been part of one church for donkey’s years, have been invited into only 5 homes – in a large church, too….
- learned that, even as someone who has been in ministry for 30 years, it’s easy to get ‘taken in’ by people – and for a very long time: so it’s been good for my discernment, I’ve had to learn that ‘believing the best of people’ – whilst I want it to remain one of my strengths – can also be an incredible weakness
It’s been a huge learning curve. Did I get it wrong, and should never have gone there? I don’t think so, I really believe it was right, if only to learn the above, and so much more. Other non-American friends, who have lived there a long time, said to me when I arrived, ‘Be prepared for culture shock!’ – I laughed, said I’d been there probably between 75-100 times in the previous 13 years, and it was the UK, just bigger. It ain’t!! And it was ‘culture shock’. I still have some lovely friends in Virginia, and, when I finally get to go back, really look forward to seeing them. (And I don’t just men the ‘ex-pats!!).
Deep down inside, I loved – and still have a love for – the USA. It’s just going to take some time to let the ‘bruises’ disappear, the ‘scars’, and not keep poking them (I always used to enjoy poking people’s bruises when I was little 🙁 !!). But the weight off my shoulders today is tangible, the process of living life on one sid of the pond ONLY begins again today, and the process of forgiving and – here, I wish I was more like Jesus – trying to choose not to remember. God’s so flipping amazing, isn’t he, in that he ‘chooses to remember our sins no more’…. God, make me like that with other people, please….
So, if this whole process has been to either make me more like Jesus, or realise that I need/want to more like Jesus, then it’s all been well, well worth it….