At the beginning of the summer, I assumed that I would leave the Saturday after my internship ended. The closer I got to that date, the harder it became to think about leaving. Elizabeth also put a little pressure on me to stick around a couple days and I wanted to spend more time with my host family. I realized that there was going to be a gap of time between the end of my internship and school starting. It dawned on me that this would be the last time that I would be responsibility free in my life. After I get married, even if I check out for a few days to be alone, I’ll still be responsible for my wife. I began to feel a nagging thought that I should take a few days to spend time alone. The idea itself annoys me because I like people and being around them. Not being with people feels like choosing to stand in the desert in the middle of the day for no good reason. Why should I subject myself to agony and torture? I have friends, I am a pretty cool guy, why should I choose to be alone? But, I knew that God placed it on my heart to spend a few days alone and I know better than to ignore his calling. It is a 13 hour drive from GA to WI and I set aside 4-5 days to do it.
I began the first leg of the drive in the late afternoon. I wanted to formally start my solitude so I pulled over at the first place that got my attention; a state park. Upon getting to the gate I realized there was a parking fee and I didn’t feel like paying it so I pulled into a drive to turn around, but it t wasn’t large enough to do a u-turn, so I followed until it ended in a cemetery. I figured God knew that I was going to end up here so I parked and got out. The first set of thoughts were the obvious ones about the brevity of life, priorities, what matters most, the point of my year, the big scheme of things, and so on. As I continued to walk around I began to notice all the graves with couples. Each man’s grave had a date that was about ten years before the women’s dates. I began to think about what I wanted to leave Elizabeth with so that she could eventually move on. Still on my walk, I came across a grave with a married couple who had the wife die in childbirth. I couldn’t imagine anything worse... a series of worst case scenarios began to flood my mind. I started to wonder what would keep me faithful to God if the worst things I could possibly imagine came true. I was pretty annoyed at God for hitting me quickly as I started this journey of solitude. I left that cemetery full of questions and with no real answers. So, I read Matthew.
I headed for Nashville, and was able to connect with Elizabeth’s brother Ben. He was gracious and invited me to a concert with him at RocketTown. A scream-o band playing was named "This Is Hell." I agreed. Outside, we ran into one of his friends. This guy was covered in tattoos, had gages in his ears, and was smoking a pipe. But when he heard Ben was traveling to New York for a show and I was on my way to WI, he asked if he could pray for our traveling safety. (Talk about judging a book by its cover, I was blown away.) After that, Ben, his friend Ryan, and I went to Qdoba to eat. We chatted awhile about life, love, and fathers and then we parted ways. I don’t know if my time spent with him was particularly meaningful, but I know that sometimes in life, it is just nice to have people around. I drove a little ways outside of Nashville before I parked at a rest stop to sleep for the night.
The following day, I drove a couple hours to Hopkinsville, Kentucky. I think it was a real town because I found a Starbucks and I spent the day there. My agenda for the day was to read Romans. By the time I had gotten to Ch. 3, I had already forgot all the great stuff from the first couple chapters so I changed my approach. I went back and began to journal about what I was reading. I came to the overwhelming realization that Romans is an awesome book. I don’t know if I ever really understood before all the treasure that Romans has to offer. The neat thing was, all the questions that I had asked in the cemetery were starting to be answered. Of course there were things there that I already knew, the obvious things. But a lot of what it was was head knowledge turning into heart knowledge. Like the verse about the Spirit testifying with my spirit, totally true! I think I fell in love with the gospel as I read Romans. Not kidding. I saw Paul wrestle with all these issues and yet, he was free because in the end, God is the one who enacts, maintains, and upholds everything. The fear of falling away isn’t on me because He is holding me to himself. And, I know he will continue to. It was a very freeing moment to me. It was in that all those answers came. The thoughts about what mattered most, what I needed to invest in, and the big scheme of things, etc. all fell away. The answer is, of course, not an epiphany, but also it was an epiphany. The Gospel. I want to help Christians strip off the garbage that clouds their vision and help them ask the question, “What is getting in the way of loving the gospel?” Paul was correcting and coaching them so that they could appreciate the gospel. I discovered that what I want to leave Elizabeth is a love for the gospel. A legacy where the stability comes from Him, not me. A love that for Him that feeds my love for her. I guess when I realize that everything else is outside of ourselves and we become expendable to his plan, it is easier to follow. I felt so free and not afraid. The other main thing I took away from Romans was that we are to identify with Christ more than just feeling or thinking like him. We aren’t just trying to put ourselves in his shoes. It is way more mystical that that. I realized we are to allow him to be our life. In a sense, I am to be him. His life is my life. It is a much stronger connection that what I thought.
Tired from so much spirituality, I headed to taco bell before turning in for the night. On the way, my best friend called me and told me he was coming to stay at my house on his way to Chicago and wanted me to be there. I decided that I could do that, so I got up the next morning, read Mark, and drove home. It was interesting to read that Gospel on the other side of all my realizations about God from Romans. Everytime Jesus spoke, I was like, “wow!”
When Alex arrived at my house, I spent time with him, played games, hung out, and when he left on Sunday, so did I.