"Are you on staff here?" asked the man, sticking his head in the door of the Coachmen's Lounge in the Carriage House.
"No," I said. (Not "No, but I used to be," or "No, but I sometimes wish I were." Just "No.") "I'm sorry I can't help you."
"That's okay," he said nonchalantly. "You just can't answer my question. Thanks." He smiled and left in search of someone who could.
This interaction sums up the gist of what hurts the most about returning to places in my past that I love: I can't help and I can't answer. To a wannabe maven like myself, this is the death knell of the soul (or less melodramatically, part of the heartache I've felt on this trip).
I didn't realize it until we were on the road, but on this family vacation (the longest – two weeks – we've ever attempted and I've felt the guiltiest about), Megan and I are essentially re-tracing our geographic, emotional, and spiritual history together.
Starting in Oklahoma City (where we now live and move and have our being), we spent two days in St. Louis (Covenant Seminary, teaching at Westminster) before spending four days in Illinois (where I grew up and we lived for six weeks before transitioning to the Lou).
Following our time on the farm, we headed out Colorado way, getting into Colorado Springs yesterday afternoon (where we met, started our family, and worked with The Navigators for 12 years at Glen Eyrie and Eagle Lake, the two Nav properties threatened and very nearly consumed by the Waldo Canyon Fire a few weeks back). We've already seen a bear up close and personal, and the girls are attending Day Camp through the week before we begin the trip back to OKC Friday evening.
As much as these places in my past have stayed the same, they have all changed as well. When we stopped off at Westminster in St. Louis to see where I would have taught had we stayed, it was very different ($70 million dollars buys quite a campus and facility).
When we arrived at the farm, we barely made it in before the oil and chip crew finished my parents' driveway (something my dad repeatedly said he'd waited 39 years to do).
Here at the Glen, we had the place to ourselves on a Sunday evening, but it's a very different (and much improved) place from when I was here in the first half of the 2000's.
Being a recovering narcissist, I keep wondering how much of any of the change would or would not have happened had I stayed where I was? How would any of these or a thousand other decisions been made differently had I been around to be more involved in the discussions? And what does it mean for my ego that the decisions that did get made without me seem to have been, by and large, good and right ones?
It's a timely reminder, I suppose, that none of us are irreplaceable and that we should not think of ourselves as such. This does not mean that we are unimportant and unable to serve in God's grander narrative, but it's humbling to relearn again and again this lesson: though I want to matter, mattering is not what matters most (or even at all) in the economy of God. He is the only real Matterer.
I know and believe this, but my heart struggles with the feeling and truth of it. Forgive me, Lord, for allowing my desire to matter to be such a matter of my desire.