Tomorrow I'll return to the "I AM" statements of Jesus, but today I'm thinking about my older brother. You see, tomorrow he takes the next step in a journey he began about 18 months ago. It's the largest step, by the size of a globe and a two-day plane ride. You see, tomorrow my older brother, the one who has always liked his creature comforts and upper-middle class activities like snow-skiing, golfing and biking, leaves his very nice home for a new engineering job assignment in Bratsk, Russiaa. For those of you unfamiliar with Russian geography, that's Siberia. Yep, my older brother is going to Siberia in the dead of winter, which is always a smart move.
But let me tell you about the act of faith that brought him to this place and to the position where he not only doesn't feel trepidation at such a move (or the arduous travel involved in getting there), but a real peace that this is EXACTLY what he is meant to do right now.
About two years ago, R was working only five minutes down the hill from his lovely home where he and his wife had moved for the view, its proximity to his job and because he'd been commuting for about two decades (or so it seems to me). When they moved into Tacoma, his wife had the long commute across the Narrows bridge, against the flow of traffic (thankfully) and back out to their former stomping grounds to teach elementary school. They found a new church, got involved in a small group, loved the pastor, and enjoyed their lives together. Their sons were grown, had married wonderful women whom were sure to make their sons better men. They took walks down by the bay, spent weeks in central Oregon at their condo, got a dog. R skied in the winter, golfed in the summer, bought a bicycle to use in between. Sure, sometimes R complained about his job, but who doesn't? It was just about exactly the life R and D imagined for themselves. They felt blessed and satisfied, thought they'd live this way for a decade--until retirement. And then they could really play.
Then they went to a Christmas party two years ago. And D noticed that R's company didn't appreciate him the way they should have. He's a very smart man, my brother is. He thinks well, communicates better and has people skills out the ying yang (whatever that means!). In the next several months they spoke more and more about R looking for something different. At first it was simply talk. Then it became something of an idea. A plan.
Then our mother died. I'm not sure if this had anything to do with R's search or is just a time marker, but at least in terms of his talking to me (and my recording it in my journals), the job hunt began to take off. A world-wide company in exactly R's niche was looking for engineers with exactly his credentials. The intriguing, though a bit complicating, part was that he'd have to be away from home for long stretches at a time. Even Siberia in the dead of winter for a month or six weeks without seeing his wife. Then home for two or three weeks. Then back to Russia for a month. On and off planes for the foreseeable future. It was a rather daunting prospect, initially.
Was he up for the adventure of it all? By the time R talked to me about it, he'd already had a conversation or two with a 'head-hunter'. He and D had talked about it a whole lot, I know. And undoubtedly he'd talked to those very smart, faithful sons of his as well. But the first conversation I had with R about it all was about how we know whether God is in something. Or, to put it a different way, how we know what God wants for us. We all want God to give us a clear and certain sign that He is directing our paths. We want a neon light pointing us the way so that we don't do the wrong thing. And in a decision as large and 'outside the box' as taking a job in Siberia, that desire is not academic. It's slightly different than wanting him to show us whether to eat this cupcake or not (and I've known people who are just that trivial about such things--and trust me, God both cares and doesn't care, if you can understand that plurality!). My reaction to R that day was, "Ask God to close the door, just close the dang door." Those were my exact words. Keep walking until the door to this job shuts.
The many conversations he had with D, his sons, his small group and others all led him to essentially the same conclusion--that he'd keep going through the job process until either he or the company decided it wasn't a good fit.
Clearly you know the end of this story. God didn't close the dang door. R has worked for that international company for a year now. He's been in the North American section, working weekly in Alabama, commuting home via plane almost every weekend. He's earned enough air miles to fly business class, and has grown comfortable using planes as a place to work and nap. As he puts it, the only difference between the way he used to work and this is that rather than daily, now he kisses his wife goodbye Monday morning and hello Friday afternoon. It's worked for them.
And now the assignment to Bratsk. A Russian winter, and goodbye tomorrow morning and hello the 16th of February. It'll be a new adventure. Learning to be (as Moses named his son), "a stranger in a strange land." I've been thinking this morning about the profound ways God used Moses because he was willing to be that stranger in the strange land, was willing to obey God, when God led him away from his home and people and everything familiar. God just kept moving him and never closed the door until He finally led Moses to a bush that burned without becoming ashes. God met Moses first when Moses was farthest away from his lovely life in the palace where he had all the creature comforts one can imagine and if he didn't have them, he certainly could get them with a snap of a finger. God had to lead him away from all those things in order to mold Moses into the man He intended him to be.
So this morning, as I contemplate my brother's long flight tomorrow (and Monday--he won't reach Bratsk until Tuesday) I'm not all that interested in the job he's been hired to do there. Those kind of things have always been a little outside of my box, as all the engineers in my family would tell you. But I'm immensely excited to hear what God intends for my brother while he dwells in a land so far away. I am absolutely convinced that God kept that dang door open with a cement block because He meant my brother to go to this place to hear Him, to see Him, to become His in a whole new way. And that, my friends, is worth all the travel in the world.
Traveling mercies, RWC III. God will meet you at the end.