Under a night kept bright by the lights of Los Angeles, exactly a month ago, I stood out in front of the Evo Lounge. The SHIFT tour launch party, held on the lounge’s rooftop, was winding down, and those of us who’d be hitting the road exchanged hugs with the staff and interns we’d be leaving behind, and with each other.
There, on the sidewalk, LiNK alum and Dead End Stanley band member Sean Hines sent us off with a cover of In Exile by Thrice.
I am an exile, a sojourner, a citizen of some other place
All I’ve seen is just a glimmer
In a shadowy mirror but I know
One day we’ll see face to face
In a post I had written very shortly before that, I recognized exactly what it meant to be a pilgrim. Living in movement, going place to place, leaving pieces of your heart with the people you meet along the way, being amazed by beauty, drawing closer to God in unlikely scenarios, exploring spiritual mysteries, and collecting awesome stories. All this in a strange package deal where you’re doing all this at once, indistinguishably.
About a month after those lyrics were sung on an L.A. street corner, I find myself at an apartment in Chicago, staying with some students from the University of Chicago. Since then, I’ve unmistakably been on a pilgrimage of my own, one that’s taken me through the red rocks of Colorado Springs, the cold metros of the Twin Cities, and the Lake Michigan glimmer of Wisconsin dairyland. One that’s led me to meet a community of retired ministers, cool Chicago coffee shop owners, and professors who work the Chinese underground. All this has been set to the tune of seeing reasons to celebrate justice- a successful rescue mission of seven refugees, then another of five. It’s been a beautiful experience.
This journey’s brought me growth. It’s been tiring. It’s been amazing. While I envision my life as a pilgrimage, this allows me to do so very tangibly. It’s why I feel so at home without a home. Living a pilgrimage- a good story and journey that causes you to fall in love with its author- is simply what I envision as my life.
I am a nomad with LiNK until December. Then what?
The journey I’m on continues.
After I graduated in June, the likely thing for me to have done is to have pursued a job or the next level of education that would root me in a place and allow me to earn a solid income. At least that’s what people typically do.
The thing is, I don’t want to just make a living, I want to live a life.
There’s a key difference between surviving and living. Survival happens passively, living takes purpose, and getting to know one’s purpose. The past few years have only confirmed what I knew as my purpose- to Love God and to Love others. It’s what I realize I was put on earth for in the first place.
Love turns into action and it creates and heals, and a purposeful life will be full of looking for ways to bring healing and restoration to the world, beyond just looking for the means to make it to the next day.
In my own life, trusting that God will stay true to providing me with the means to do what he put me here to do allows me to chase after those things rather than just my immediate means of survival.
But what exactly does that look like when it enters my own story?
I know this purpose is to Love God and Love others. I also know a few things about how this will probably look in my own life based on things God’s placed on my heart- oppressed people groups and other cultures. Frederick Buchner once described a person’s calling as ”the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.” In other words, it’s the meeting grounds between my biggest interests and passions and the biggest needs I encounter.
Life is short, and the window of time to fulfill this calling is constantly shrinking.
While life will never fully be in our control, it’s important to live intentionally with what we have and to be a good steward of the life we’ve been given. I’m super excited to see what might lay ahead in the future, just beyond this stage in my life, as my calling becomes synonymous with my career.
In terms of life goals, I don’t know exactly what I want to do, but I know who I want to be and that’s what this journey I’m on is currently about. For some reason I can’t explain, this stage of the journey will last two years. Over the next two years, I will be in a season of exploring what it means to serve the least of these.
My aim is to go places, to meet people, and to Love actively.
While I’ve spent the past few years studying the brokenness of the world, now I want to meet it. One thing that’s been cool about working with LiNK is that I haven’t had to refer to refugees as refugees. I get to call them by name. If my acts are to be motivated by Love, the people I serve can’t just be projects, I’ve gotta Love them as people.
These next two years are a journey. A journey that will set the tone of my calling for the long haul. I must meet people, go places, and encounter God. Along the way there will be different challenges, making ends meet being one of them, but part of encountering God is learning to depend on him for those things.
This nomadic role I’ve taken on fits perfectly right now. It’s going to be a fun two years, and I look forward to seeing it develop. I look forward to where it’ll take me. I love where it’s taken me thus far, LiNK has been amazing, and I love seeing the impact we’ve had on the lives of North Korean refugees.
These next two years will most likely be a patchwork of things, but they’ll be profound in how they shape what’s to come. Whether that takes me to work further on the North Korea crisis, or with refugees, or in South Africa or Nepal, or with trafficking prevention or rescue. So many possibilities. So many things on my heart.
I’m on a journey. Right now on tour. Over these next two years. In life. But it’s amazing and I can’t wait for the story to further unfold.
“All of us are called to a place we have not been. Our lives were always intended to be journeys into the unknown. The invitation is both personal and mystical. No one else may fully understand what you are being called to. You may not even fully understand. The path you walk may appear to others as strange or unreasonable, but you know there’s more going on than meets the eye.”
- Erwin McManus