This is part two of a six-part series of the Lenten Focus, done every Wednesday during Lent. Click here to read part one.
In my little bubble of Wartburg College, I’m getting the same sort of response from all of my classmates: I need to get out of Iowa.
Being a Minnesota boy, Iowa has been my escape: it’s been an escape from my family, from my hometown, but more importantly to be, my old life, the life where I was just the creepy kid who didn’t get out much (compared to Wartburg, where I’m the kinda creepy kid who is everywhere). I know Wartburg is an escape for a lot of people, but for some reason, everyone I know feels stuck.
It’s great to know that I’m not the only one who just wants to pack up and travel somewhere. The burning and yearning for somewhere to go is infecting everyone, and everyone wants to go out and see the world. But there are only so many places one can go with a limited budget and world of responsibilities.
As we celebrate Lent and reflect on our Faith Journey, we might be surprised to see that our yearning for world travel is somehow related to our yearning for faith travel. Speaking only for myself, part of my longing to see the world comes from a subconcious yearning to help the world. I feel that by seeing the sights and seeing the people, I’ll be more inclined to witness and tell of the Good News. It’s not my primary goal, but I feel that by showing unconditional love and compassion, I’ll be able to set a great example of the Christian faith, and in turn, bring someone to realize that faith, and have them become a believer.
But in order to get there, I have to leave here. I have to leave everything comfortable and familiar and boring and throw myself into an unknown world. If that’s simply driving to another state with no other real purpose than to just drive there, so be it. If it’s taking a cue from the movie Yes Man (starring Jim Carrey) and buying a plane ticket to the next flight that’s leaving, so be it.
There are so many opportunities to travel and expose yourself to the world, but all of them require leaving your comfort zone. “I want to be a world traveler, but I don’t want to leave my comfortable bed and all of my friends, and the familiar fast food joints.” Then, you’re stuck. Comfort zones are way too comfortable to get anything out of them.
I’m reminded of something that happened when I was still in high school, involving my church and mission trips. I can’t remember the exact scenario, but some people in my church were making a big deal out of the youth traveling so far away from home to do service. (I believe that at this point, the youth had gone to Vancouver, BC, Canada; Brooklyn, NY; and had just returned from San Antionio, TX and were preparing for another long haul.) I remember one of the older members standing up and saying: “Why does the youth have to travel so far away? There are plenty of opportunities to serve here! Why not just stay in town and help out our community?”
I forget the exact words of my youth leader at that time, but his reasoning was something along these lines: if we stay in town and help out people we know, we’re doing the youth a disservice. The whole point of missions work is to be outside of that comfort zone and to expose oneself to different situations and different cultures to know the many different ways to help. It’s way too easy to throw money at something, and it’s way too easy to say, “Someone else will help them.” It’s an entirely different thing to travel for three days in a 15-passenger van across the country without any opportunities for a shower, and being totally stripped of all conveniences, and relying solely on God and one another for support and help while simultaneously showing the people you encounter the best example you can of love, comfort, and care.
So take a moment today and reflect: are you feeling stuck? Are you feeling like you just need to go out into the world and do something? Do you feel called to make a difference in someone’s life?
Then take these words from Jesus to heart: “Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” (Matthew 28:19-20)