What if imagination let us live in a world where God has given us an abundance?
In contrast to the “what if” questions I tend to ask after any proposed or real-time decision, this what if is a welcomed one, even if it seems fleeting to me. Tom Long asked the question in a commencement address this spring that was somewhat of a departure from the usual charge to graduates where imagined worlds do flourish. Dr. Long built his argument upon parables—a parabolic imagination—retelling briefly in this context the parable from the gospels of the sower, whom he said was confident of an abundant harvest to so recklessly distribute his seeds of promise. He recalled a history of faithful people who were and are not afraid to waste themselves and their love like God wastes his— an imagination of abundance—and to participate in that goodness.
Over the course of 5 ½ days, Mitch and I and our dog, Hunter, drove through Tennessee, Virginia, Kentucky, Illinois, Missouri, Kansas, Iowa, Nebraska, South Dakota, Wyoming, Montana, Idaho, and the state of Washington before crossing the border into British Columbia by land and then boarding the ferry for our final destination, Vancouver Island. More than once we doubled back, so to speak, moving through Iowa to Missouri and Nebraska, only to find ourselves back in Iowa. Several times we traipsed north to get south, as we did when we almost went to Vancouver to catch a more conveniently timed ferry to Victoria.
Now, we are here and I am searching for that imagination of abundance. It might be right in front of me.
We crossed into Canada through Blaine, Washington on Wednesday evening. Our plan had been to spend the night in Blaine and cross in the morning and catch an early afternoon ferry to Victoria when our Airbnb would be available. After an unexpected delay getting out of Seattle, we had some trouble finding dog-friendly accommodations—we thought we knew what we were doing.
“Might as well just go [through immigration] now, we are as ready as we will ever be,” Mitch advised. So, we weren’t quite ready. We dumped our perishable food, filled out the declarations of goods we were carrying with us, and put all our paperwork in an accessible place.
We placed Hunter in the dog crate outside the immigration office and went in. Well, actually we all went in and were reminded to put the dog in the crate near the door. As has been the case, we had our things in order even though the kind young immigration officer didn’t seem to need some of our anxious preparation. I’m still a bit concerned that he didn’t “stamp” our declaration of goods for the coming move of our household goods. Paperwork for our vehicle as a temporary import was accomplished and the dog welcomed with little fanfare.
We stopped at this park as we entered to attempt to enjoy the beauty instead of panicking about what we were doing. It was a very brief respite.
We did panic. We made a few stickers to translate miles per hour to kilometers to monitor the speed limits, threw caution to the wind (financial concerns) and used our cell phone GPS, took out our colorful Canadian money and looked for a hotel and fast food as the sun was setting.
I don’t believe that God opens up parking places and hotel reservations. We searched online and drove around looking for a room for maybe 45 minutes that seemed like 3 hours as darkness fell around us. Finally, a possibility at the Days Inn—not a place I’ve been fond of in the past. After about 20 minutes more, we arrived and at least it was in the direction of the ferry terminal we would take the next day.
Hunter and I waited in the car and Mitch went inside. The time that passed made me hopeful that there was a room for us. Mitch came out saying they had no more dog-friendly rooms. “Had we tried the Ramada?” the clerk had asked, before saying. “We have a suite I can discount. Don’t take the elevator, go up the side stairs with the dog.” The room was the first door on the second floor and very nice—the most upscale hotel we’d stayed in on our trip that actually lived up to the updated photography on the website. We had a living room area, bedroom, and bathroom to spread out into after 5 days spent mostly in our car. We felt empowered to make reservations for the 1: 00-afternoon ferry to Victoria anticipating a more leisurely next morning.
Maybe I do believe there is some kind of synergy in the working of God and people and events in the unexplainable surrendering of our own efforts.
The sun was high overhead, the water glistening, and the vistas breathtaking as we ferried to our final destination. Our host had our small furnished space ready when we arrived and a church member across the street brought a bottle of wine to welcome us, made sure we had what we needed in the coming days, showed us the eagle’s nest at the end of the street, and even cooked fresh salmon on the grill for us another evening. We meet the couple that we will eventually rent from tomorrow afternoon to finalize the details for the September move to a whole house—I didn’t imagine that would be possible here.
The moving of our household hasn’t worked out seamlessly like I imagined, but small bits of information keep us moving forward. Somehow, I had the presence of mind to go ahead and put our worldly possessions in storage in Tennessee and plan that this will unfold. I’ve fallen into some more “what if” questions and am reminded ever so gently to quell that chatter to make room for the voice I need most to hear. The message is to stay in that place of quiet, where I let down defenses and pretense, to surrender and not brace so that God can speak. All is right deep down that makes the rest of the decisions possible—that God and other people or maybe God through other people—is looking out for us. How to live in that kind of abundance that God has provided? Buechner says “that is the shelter God calls us to with a bale in either hand when the wind blows bitter and the shadows are dark.”
That is the life I have and continue to be enveloped in—EVEN when I am anxious and lose the calm assurance that this life provides for me. And each time, I encounter the fidelity of God: the love, and grace that I truly do not actually understand or appreciate that continues anyway—an imagination of abundance.