It is painful to be here. For an hour this morning Maria and I argued and discussed where we are respectively at right now. For Maria, life is painful. Whenever she sees that the children are unhappy she feels responsible. Their unhappiness, which comes and goes of course, is right now largely the result of moving to the far side of the world. It is no easy thing to go to school where the language is largely incomprehensible. It is no easy thing to make new friends where they know almost no-one. It is especially hard when they, and we, think of what we have left behind to come here.
Where we are now is the result of the choices we have made. Choices sometimes bring pain. Decisions made can take us into situations which are uncomfortable and insecure. Our decision to go to the ship, some 5 years ago now, took us well and truly out of our comfort zone. The decision to move here, though made for different reasons and though moving to a completely different environment, has once again taken us out of the comfortable, the known, the secure.
We do not like to feel pain. We do not enjoy seeing the children sad. We do not enjoy moving into a society where we feel that we know very few, and those we do know are acquaintances more than friends. For me and the kids it is hard to understand and begin to communicate in an unfamiliar language. And even Maria, who speaks the language, feels like a foreigner. She is only now realizing how different she has become after all these years living in other countries.
But pain resulting from a decision surely does not indicate that the decision is wrong. Change is painful and destabilizing, more so as we get older. But that does not mean that we should never change anything. The presence of comfort and security, likewise, does not indicate that everything is as it should be, or that a decision to change should never be considered. Perhaps one of the main reasons people consider change is when they are unhappy, when things are not going well, when they perceive that the change will bring greater happiness, greater comfort, greater affluence. Or for the purpose of upward mobility. Better job, more money, better house, nicer environment. But our decision to move to Sweden has taken us in the opposite direction – no job, no income at present, from a house to a flat, from the best part of town to one of the worst.
How could this be right? That is a mystery, but it reminds me of Jesus. Surely that was his decision too – to move down in the world. Downward mobility was the path that Jesus chose to take. At the risk of sounding pious, we have chosen to believe that if it was good enough for Jesus, perhaps it is good enough for us. Though we often wonder why we have done what we have done, surely if it resembles even to a tiny extent the path that Jesus chose for himself, it can’t be all bad.
Downward mobility. That is the path we have chosen for now. Perhaps this will not last forever, perhaps it will. Who knows. I am often reminded of the line in Michael Card’s song which says: “It’s hard to imagine the freedom we find, from the things we leave behind.” I am also reminded of the description that is found in the Bible of Jesus, where it says, “he will not judge by what he sees with his eyes, or decide by what he hears with his ears; but with righteousness he will judge… with justice he will give decisions…” There has to be something more than our senses by which we make our decisions. Of course our eyes and our ears are the main source of input into our brains. But it is righteousness and justice which should guide our judgements and decisions. The question we should ask is not, does it feel right, but is it right? And the only way we can ever know what is right, it seems to me, is to come to understand the mind of God. If our senses alone are a measure of what is right we are lost on stormy seas.
So for us, for now, we choose to believe that this is the right place for us, that God has guided us here, that he is guiding us still, even if most days it feels at best strange, and at worst, bloody awful…!