Everyone in our family are big readers. The love of reading isn’t something we have had to teach our children, it seems to come naturally. We love stories. One of our favorite stories is a series of books written to children, even though it comes from one of the most brilliant minds of 20th century, C.S. Lewis. In our family, nearly everything comes back to Narnia. When we need something to explain Heaven to our children, we go to the Last Battle and how all the heroes of Narnia are reunited together in Asland’s Country to live in the Narnia within Narnia or The Real Narnia with Asland forever. When times are tough and it seems like we have a hard time hearing from God, we go to the Silver Chair and remember how Puddleglum stared in the face of the Green Lady and gallantly proclaimed Asland’s truth in the face of spiritual confusion. We desire to trust in the Lord relying on the goodness and faithfulness of a Creator like Reepicheep in The Voyage of the Dawntreader floating off the end of the world The examples go on and on.
We currently find similarity with these stories in that we are only a month away from going back to our lives in the Dominican Republic. It feels very much like Eustace who, in Prince Caspian, experienced life changing moments far from “home” only to return back to England and feel like a stranger. Eustace had spent far more time before Narnia than he did in Narnia, but it was his experiences while there that made it so lifechangingly real. Chronologically, it was only a mere 30 months ago that we were preparing to leave for the first time and while none of us were changed into a dragon and back into a boy, our time in the Dominican has changed us in ways that are hard to quantify.
As with Eustace, we have come back to our England and these last four months have certainly been different than we expected. I mean, we sort of expected some things to be different–of course we remember how life moves much faster here in the States, it’s cleaner, it’s cold, and people make and spend more money than in the 3rd world, but we weren’t expecting to have a hard time relating with old friends, neither did we expect to feel lonely in a city far larger than the one we’ve been living in, nor did we expect to have a hard time feeling normal in church. Our home country had become less and less our home over the past few years and this became so obvious, not in how comfortable we were in the DR, but in how weird it has felt being returning to the country we were born.
That being said, the strangest thing has happened since we’ve been here in the States. That world we were so accustom to has faded into a memory, to an idea. Don’t get me wrong, we want to go back so badly, but “back” is now less and less real than it was a short time ago. Everything we have experience here in the US we have compared to this idea of our lives back home, our real home. Now, with not much more than 30 days before we go back, we are feeling like this present reality has become more and more home, though it always seems like something is missing, like a quiet longing that is ever present but that we never talk about. We feel like we’re strangers in our home country, like Eustace in the beginning of the Silver Chair when he’s still in England we are experiencing life in the present with a constant memory of the past.
But what if this idea, this memory isn’t exactly accurate? What if life isn’t really like what we remember? What if our kids, now that they’ve seen the developed world in a fuller sense, don’t like the quaint idiosyncrasies of life lived amongst such poverty? What if the this time here in America has warped our thinking and changed life in the DR into something it’s not, like an idol of simplicity? Were those two years simply an extended honeymoon and the joy only due to the newness brought by our minds trying to comprehend a new paradigm?
Either way the plane takes off on December 31st, if the Lord wills, and we’ll all be on it. Life goes on day after day pretty much the same down in our slow city in the Dominican Republic. We know we have been missed and we can’t wait to start up our ministries and reenter the lives of our friends–the line of distinction between those two is hard to see when both are going well. Maybe it’s fitting that this next phase in our lives, which will be so new yet unmistakable familiar, will coupled by a celebration of the new year. A new year and a new adventure. We sure hope that everything will be as we remember, but like Asland said to Lucy in Prince Caspian:
“Things never happen the same way twice, dear one.”