My Uni Travels

The other day I trawled through my facebook photos – looking for a specific photo from when I was at uni for something I was doing. I never found that photo – but I was reminded of things I’d forgotten about that I did during that time. A trip to Copenhagen, a year in Spain, visiting a friend in Gothenburg, a holiday in Italy, volunteering in Guatemala, seeing my aunt and uncle in Texas, a few weeks travelling up the coast of brasil with two uni friends from Rio to where my parents were living at the time, another trip with my family – by bus, plane and boat from where we lived to the mouth of the amazon, then up the river to Manaus and out to a town where my mum grew up in the middle of Amazonia…

 

You get the picture… I liked to travel, I liked different cultures, languages, meeting new people…

 

At the time I was studying Spanish and International Development at uni. My plan was to move to Sub-Saharan Africa…

 

I sat there at our dining table in the middle of Sutton Coldfield, having just dropped my two kids off at school, waiting for a wash to finish… reflecting on all this and looking at the photos. I felt a lump of discontentment rising up – we’d planned this summer to inter-rail to visit my parents – partly because we are trying to avoid air miles, but partly for the adventure. But that was cancelled, so we had booked to go this half term by plane… Portugal was put into quarantine, so we changed our flights to Italy – where we could still meet as a family – something we felt was a priority at the moment. Then Italy was put on the quarantine list, and we lost our flights.

 

I spent quite a while reflecting on how I felt about this – I’m not someone who easily recognises what I’m feeling – I’d rather get on with life than sit and think about it – but I felt like I needed to force myself to think about what all these memories were bringing up in me…

 

I came to realise I was feeling this urge to travel partly because we’re more confined now… a kind of rebellious wanting to do what we’re told not to… But also, deeper than that it was a desire for excitement, for a break from the monotony of day to day normal life.

 

It’s easy to fall into this attitude… we watch films and TV series that capitalise on the excitement of new relationships, exceptional events, tragedy and heroic exploits. But most of life is none of this. Films don’t go into the everyday normality of the “happily ever after” “or the not so happily, up and down, ever after” to be more accurate – because that’s not exciting. And yet that’s what most of our lives are and what we need to learn to do well. If we are constantly chasing another exciting adventure or relationship we will lack perseverance, steadfastness, faithfulness that is needed to love the people and places God gives to us.

 

Other tasks may seem heroic, but in fact it is the everyday drudge that is the real challenge, the unnoticed, faithful living well everyday – that takes real heroes, not just your film star heroes who navigate a few moments of excitement…

 

There is nothing wrong with adventure, and exciting moments in our lives in themselves – but if we become dependent on these to the point that we neglect and become discontented with the gifts we receive each and every day then there is a problem. We have been called to live here, where we are – the Bible says we are resident aliens (1 Peter 2:11) – we belong to another Kingdom but we are in exile here for now… And God says to those who find themselves in exile:

 

Jeremiah 29:5-7:

“Build houses and settle down; plant gardens and eat what they produce.Marry and have sons and daughters; find wives for your sons and give your daughters in marriage, so that they too may have sons and daughters. Increase in number there; do not decrease. Also, seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile. Pray to the Lord for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper.”

 

As you’re faced with this week – with your everyday routines… with the restrictions of lockdown, with the lonliness, irritations, work, and leisure… Let’s try and remember – this is a huge and important part of life. This is when our character develops – think of the heroes in the Bible – Abraham, Moses, Deborah, David, Ruth, Esther, even Jesus – only small portions of their lives are told in the Bible – they all have years when they were just faithfully living and developing their strength of character during years of daily monotony…

 

So, throughout this week when we feel discontented, or when we are tempted by the excitement we see in films, TV, books and celebrity social media… let’s come back to what Paul, another hero in the Bible told us to do:

 

Romans 12:1-2:

 

So here’s what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him. Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you.