Distracted Driving Laws Be Damned

Calgary

 

It snowed in the Rockies Wednesday night, and Thursday morning dawned bright. The white on blue made the mountains taller and closer: it pushed them skyward, pulled them eastward. They loomed in all their wild holy beauty, vivid, huge, daunting, inviting. Driving to work, I almost swerved into the ditch from sheer distraction.

All around here are roadside signs that announce, starkly, grimly: “Distracted Driving Laws in Effect.” At first I thought they were targeted at cell-phone users. Now I’m thinking they’re meant for people spellbound by the scenery.

This is my third week living in Cochrane, working in Calgary. Three weeks is still a raw beginning. But day by day, the land becomes known to me, the house settles into a comforting sameness, the rhythms of the work place feel more natural. The strangeness of it all gives way to familiarity.

A good thing, and not.

I taught a lesson last week on the theology of new beginnings. I’d never really thought about it before, but now I do a lot. What struck me is that the Bible is written largely for a transient people: Adam and Eve forced out of Eden, Cain exiled from family, Noah abandoning society, Abraham called out of Ur, Jacob fleeing Beersheba, Joseph dragged out of Canaan, Moses escaping Egypt, David running from Saul, and on and on and on. God watches over a displaced people. Strangers in a strange land. And Jesus comes as heaven’s refugee, as divine vagabond. His refrain: “Foxes have holes, and birds often air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.”

“Come,” he says, “follow me.”

Which means seeing new places, meeting new people, often. It means saying hello a lot.

There are many skills and attitudes for this, but this I’ve found huge: wonder. The downside of familiarity is the loss of wonder. We stop noticing, stop beholding, stop being curious, stop being in awe. The beauty all around us – in landscapes, in situations, in conversations, in people – becomes mere backdrop. Spectacle becomes mundane. Sighing and yawning replace having our breath taken away.

These three weeks have reawakened in me wonder. I see with fresh eyes, hear with unstopped ears. I sometimes gasp in astonishment. I know in time this will grow dull, but I intend to keep it alive as long as I can.

So Distracted Driving laws be damned: I choose awe.

In-Between

Classroom

Apologies for my long silence.

It’s been a summer of upheaval and dislocation – none of it bad, all of it stressful. Since I last posted anything here, June 14, I have changed both location and vocation: from Duncan, British Columbia to Calgary, Alberta; from pastoral ministry to academic work. I traded the Pacific Ocean for the Rockies, the pulpit for the lectern.

I spent the summer in-between: not a pastor anymore, not a professor yet; not from Duncan for long, not in Calgary for a while.

 

Then last week we moved, and I started work. I write this the morning after my first class – a three-hour marathon that I have to repeat 14 more times. I drove home last night both exhausted and grateful. Three hours is a long time to try to hold anyone’s attention. The students were engaging, curious, insightful, and stayed admirably awake. But me? I was reeling.

 

I kept having to remind myself not to preach. Me instinct for that roots deep. I speak a text, and my mind crowds with illustration, application, exhortation – all my pastoral impulses run amok. This isn’t entirely a bad thing in a classroom – after all, students need to be doers of the word, just like the rest of us – but I could see the look of bewilderment on several faces. Should I be writing this down? Will this be on the final exam? Is this related to your last point?

 

It’s going to take me a while to get the rhythm for this. Right now, I’m in-between.

 

Around us, a household slowly emerges from a maze of boxes, thanks mostly to Cheryl’s tireless efforts. The space, inch by inch, gets colonized with our furniture, our pictures, our presence. (My office at work, on the other hand, looks like one of those rooms from a bombed out library in WWII. Alas, my efforts at conquering it are less heroic).

 

Part way through last night’s class, I asked each person to introduce themself, to tell where they were born, and to say what place they now called home. I was last to go.

 

“My name is Mark,” I said. “And I was born in Calgary.” Then I flinched answering the last question. “And what place do I call home?

 

I wanted to say Duncan.

 

With a shock of sadness, I knew it’s not so. Then with a shock of joy, I realized what is so: I’m already here. I’m no longer in-between.

 

I’m home.