That was the last time I flew west, home to America, after spending a number of weeks in Western and Eastern Europe. I was flying alone, single, and wondering where my life would lead me. Where I might be lead. More than 5,500 miles, from London to Los Angeles.
I remember the overriding feeling I had flying home, somewhere over southern Greenland, was of thankfulness. Thankful for an amazing journey. Thankful to be returning to a free country, after visiting with many people who, simply, were not free. Thankful for friends who supported me to go, both in prayer and financially.
Today, in almost the same place, moving in the same direction at close to the speed of sound, at the edge of the atmosphere, I am returning home with three amazing women; my wife of almost 20 years, and our two daughters, now 14 and 17. And those people I met who were not free, are free now. I would never have imagined. I am still overwhelmed with thanksgiving.
I would meet my wife four years after that last trip; my best friend forever. We would marry one year later. Less than three years later our lives would be forever changed by the slightly early arrival of Kelly. After the sadness of a miscarried child, three more years later, our home would be filled with even more noise, joy, tears, and laughter by the arrival of Heather.
All those years ago, flying so far above the planet, I could never have imagined the course my life would take; the challenges of marriage, and the constant responsibilities of parenting. Or the feeling of holding your feverish baby daughter in your arms in the hospital admitting room, wondering what would become of a 104 degree temperature and a serious infection. I had not a clue of what it mean to stand, and sit, and wonder, and wait at the bedside of dying parents. Or the feeling of near impossibility at the thought of raising teenagers. Of how to guide these young ladies into becoming not just responsible members of society, but women who might possess deep character, conviction, and a faith that is real and honest. More than two decades ago, I had no idea what this ride would be like.
Back then, I had no idea that the real meaningful work of life occurs not in momentous, magical moments of great moral victory or triumph. Hollywood often romantically teaches us that, but they have it completely wrong. What I learned is that often, great things occur at the speed of continental drift. No one would make a movie of that. Barely measurable. Almost imperceptible. Persistence is, in the end, something that matters a great deal.
And so, this next Monday, I will get up again. I will try my best to love my wife well, to care, and to let her know daily that she is, simply put, wonderful. I will listen to, and laugh with, and maybe even offer a small bit of helpful advice to the two girls we are attempting to launch into the world. They will not be with us much longer. I will breath normally, while trying to be a good Dad.
I will head to work, and do the best I know how, each day. I will try to bring excellence to my work, and try to care for those who work with me, offering them something more than just a place to go to go work.
I will persist.
Sara Groves has written a song, which came up a while ago on my IPod, here at 34,000 feet. Entitled “When It Was Over”, it is meditation on personal real stories of acceptance, forgiveness, and redemption.
My life is like that, every day.
Jesus save us from a multitude of things
Make us whole
There is a love that never fails
There is a healing that always prevails
There is a hope, that whispers about, the promise to wait while we’re working it out
There is a love….
A promise to wait, a promise to stay
So come with your love, and wash over us”
May Christ’s love wash over each one of you who reads this. Each day, henceforth and forever.