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March 2011

March 03, 2011

There and Back Again: A Pastor's Tale, Part Seven

dsc00012.jpg "When going back makes sense, you are going ahead." ~ Wendell Berry

Some who have been reading this series of blog posts may not know the title is a literary reference. It is drawn from J.R.R. Tolkien’s book, The Hobbit, which offers “There and Back Again: A Hobbit’s Tale” as an alternate title. The Hobbit tells the story of Bilbo Baggins’s unlikely adventure as he leaves his comfy home in the Shire, travels into wild lands and unknown dangers, and then returns again transformed by all that has happened in-between.

In Orthodoxy, G.K. Chesterton, another British author of the same era, opens his book with a similar theme. Though not a fantasy, he nevertheless describes a fanciful situation in which an English yachtsman sets out from home on his own journey of discovery. However, through a miscalculation in his course, what he "discovers" is England itself—in the mistaken belief that it is a new island in the South Seas! Though such a man might appear to be a fool, Chesterton is not concerned with this impression. He states that any who think that a sense of folly "...was [the yachtsman's] sole or dominant emotion [has] not studied with sufficient delicacy the rich romantic nature of the hero of this tale." He continues:

"His mistake was really a most enviable mistake; and he knew it, if he was the man I take him for. What could be more delightful than to have in the same few minutes all the fascinating terrors of going abroad combined with all the humane security of coming home again? What could be better than to have all the fun of discovering South Africa without the disgusting necessity of landing there? (With all apologies to my South African friends!) What could be more glorious than to brace one's self up to discover New South Wales and then realize, with a gush of happy tears, that it was really old South Wales?"

In context, Chesterton uses this amusing anecdote as a metaphor for his journey away from, then back to orthodox Christian faith. As it relates to my journey, it serves as a poignant, albeit imperfect, analogy for our journey over these last couple of years. It is imperfect insofar as it was not a miscalculation that led to us to move to New Zealand and then return to Kansas City. It is poignant inasmuch as it describes the scope of emotions—from the fascinating terrors to the humane security—we have felt as our family discovered a new island in the South Seas, and now, somehow, find ourselves preparing to land on our home shores almost two years later.

Here is how the final part of this tale unfolded...

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March 2011

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