One of our daughters said the other day,
“Don’t you realize you are living most people’s dream?”
We live in Europe most of the year, traveling constantly to historical and exotic sites, sampling authentic foods from outdoor cafes in picturesque settings. We fly enough to get preferred status and even free upgrades. (Mike got bumped to first class recently.) Our Facebook presence always shows us smiling, heads pressed together in marital harmony. Beautiful landscapes and romantic sunsets abound. It seems suspiciously like one long vacation. On paper, actually on line these days, it all looks… fun.
Finally, our jobs are “spiritual”, resisting quantitative or qualitative measurement. It must be so fulfilling to be “missionaries”.
Well, yes and no. First of all, we avoid the word “missionary”. It is a word that conjures up a host of unhelpful baggage, imagined nobility, and so many unrealistic expectations that we flee the description. We just happen to work there, and “there” is merely somewhere else from where we used to be. Most days we liked it where we were and most days we like it where we are now. Location changes very little.
Second, we work with people and people are alarmingly similar world-wide. After survival, the deepest human needs are relationship and meaning in life. Simultaneously, these are always dented and bent by sinful self-interest. The world is a mess but only intermittently more messy in one place than another. When someone does respond to God’s gracious overtures, we have a front row seat and the show is worth the price. That is fun… and enormously fulfilling. Some nights I am overcome with a feeling of… it sounds so inadequate… happiness.
Third, a confession. Wherever I have lived, there were other nights I would walk home, fists pummeling the air, yelling at the sky, “What’s wrong with these people!” I did that in Berkeley. I did that in Davis, in Bellingham, in Lubbock, and Eugene. Sometimes the forests of Slovakia find a crazy American doing the same thing. (I hear it wards off the wild boar.) I don’t feel guilty about it. Jesus felt that way some days too. (see Luke 9:41 for self-justification.) This isn’t always fun.
Oh, and the “shiny” wore off the flying years ago. It is always “rush hour” with cramped proximity to strangers who don’t want to talk when you are in the mood and won’t be quiet when you want to sleep.
Fourth, social media is full of couples happier than you because nobody posts pictures on Facebook when the story isn’t so harmonious. We bet our marriage takes as much work as anybody’s but like everyone else, you’re only going to see us on the good days. You’ll have to use your imagination for the others.
Lastly, yes, it is very cool to live in Europe, particularly beautiful Slovakia. Locals themselves alternately love it and hate it, defended it and condemn it. To them it is “home”, like the US is for us. Yes, we have seen some cool sites and we will see some more before we are through but that is not why we keep coming back. We still get the question,
“Why are you here?”
And the answer is still the same.
P.S. First Class wouldn’t be worth the money but take it if it’s free. The food’s better.