“Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one's lifetime.” ~Mark Twain
The exact moment I came across these words is unremembered but the encouraging, challenging, and to be honest a bit convicting feelings they left will not soon be forgotten. Framed on our wall surrounded by photos of transcontinental and worldwide adventures, Mark Twain's challenge stands, reminding me that while I am dearly loved I am small in comparison to the great big world God created.
I married a thrill-seeker, an adventurer, a roots had never grown down too deep mover, a traveler and experience collector. He married a homebody, a lover of familiar comforts, a rooted Southern girl who originally couldn't bare to be transplanted too far from her original bed, one who longed to see but feared to venture out. We are a perfect clash, an iron sharpening an iron, forcing one another to go out and to stay home. The dance of balancing these two is rarely an easy one, sometimes not a pretty one, but always one that ends up, one way or the other, glorifying the One who is authoring the way.
As an introvert, quiet and alone is not just a wish, it's a necessity. There are many who flourish in the midst of the bustle, and there are many others who can only step into the bustle because they have learned they first need to flourish in the still corner. However, with it comes the temptation to stay in the corner of safety and solitude, inviting people into my world occasionally but stopping myself before stepping into theirs.
There is often such a fine line between understanding the needs of the person God created me to be and the sinful heart that overtakes and thinks it knows best.
Lest you extroverts think you're off the hook though, my personality may not allow me to completely understand enough to speak directly to your needs and struggles, but it could be easily argued that as courageous as it is to be on the go, there is courage in staying still as well. In the quiet and stillness He speaks to you. I pray you seek out the quiet to listen.
There have been multitudes of new locations sought, new experiences had, and new people met and better understood these past twelves years of adventuring with my other half. And the things seen have changed me. There have been large bustling cities full of lights and voices, homey neighborhoods and towns, quiet serene fields where we were the only ones around, mountain tops encompassing views from hundreds of miles beyond, amazing man-made feats of engineering, awe inspiring cliffs framing divinely created sunsets, and much more. And whether joyous or difficult there will be things seen that cannot be unseen.
When you venture out I guarantee you will be uncomfortable. You will see distressing things. The intimacy of the customary is gone. Stripped you are of your natural habitat, and open you are to the unknown. Things that your eyes and mind deliberately block out when navigating the well trodden roads, now have to focus on everything in their path ensuring that you can see where you are, ensuring that you will see who else is there as well.
I have prayed during these times in the past and will continue both for myself and others in the future that blinders will not be put on but that light will shine on the uncomfortable to cause compassion to grow in the heart. If we believe the Truth that we can not flee from His presence (Ps. 139:7) and we believe the Truth that The heart of man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps (Proverbs 16:9) than we must believe that the steps we take and the things we see are divinely orchestrated and instead of ignoring them we must allow them to seep into our heart and ask how they are to change us, make us different.
As harsh as this may sound, the assumed and true anguish of others is not there to make you see how much you have been blessed but to stir your heart to be a blessing to others. Perspective is a miraculous thing. Seeing the hardships around can absolutely produce a thankfulness within your soul that might not be achieved any other way, but if your only reaction is to mutter to yourself "well at least what I'm dealing with isn't that bad" or the tried and true, southern hand on heart, whispered through pursed lips and teary voice "I am just so blessed" then there is a point the size of this world and beyond that you are missing.
But beyond the possible hard and unfamiliar, there will be scenes closer to home.
When you venture out, looking at the new and unfamiliar, you will ironically see so many beautiful things and people that are quite familiar. Mother's pushing babies in strollers listening to the oddest of words their toddlers are spewing out, women and men rushing to work, people cleaning, building, cooking, serving. Tourists staring at a new environment trying to navigate, trying to take it all in. Locals rushing by maybe somewhat callous to the too familiar charms of the city in which they live.
All the feelings of comfort that come from a well known environment exist in the neighborhood next door and in others halfway around the world. We all are living in communities, placed there by a divine plan to intermingle, to seek out the bustle or grow on the outskirts of it. We are not so different, there is a common thread carefully woven by a great Designer that wherever you are can remind you of home.
For me and my introverted self, the best thing about venturing out is the reminder of how I love to come home. But come home Changed. Each time away presents opportunities for new growth, better understanding, pricks of the spirit. Then I go back home ready to jump back into the life He's given bringing in this new knowledge, renewed Spirit, and new desires to be better at and expand His influence in my everyday. Pushing me onward all the while bringing me home.
The imagery of the prodigal son comes to mind. There are many ways to extract meaning from that one story and while on the relationship side I relate much more to the older brother than the prodigal, on the seeing the importance of home I am in tune with the prodigal all the way. At the end no matter what experience came before, he knew the place he needed to be was home in the safe and loving hands of his Father. He came home having seen and experienced much more than he ever imagined, more than he might have ever wanted. He came home changed. He came home knowing that there was one place and one place only he wanted to Abide.
Venturing out puts to death exactly what Mr. Twain claims it will but it also brings about a Light in Life that nothing else can when you see that the venturing out is also a way to see that home is not a brick and mortar or wooden box that houses all your belongings. Home is a Father who loves, a Son who saves and a Spirit who guides. That is where I want to abide. It feels like home to me.
Pray that I always want to come home to Him, I'll be praying for you.