It snuck up on us today; a Facebook reminder of what was posted a couple years ago led Jason and I to think wistfully of this day two years ago. It was a day unlike any other day I had lived till then and which I am unlikely to live again. It was a day we had been dreaming and scheming toward for many years. It was a day we’d packed and prepped and prayed over and now it was time to just live. It was time to jump off the cliff and move to California.
The twenty-four hours on June 7th were a blur. Our son had just finished second grade at his elementary school the day before. Our house had already been packed; the movers shipped all of our things in a truck. We were living out of suitcases for several days with friends. That last night we stayed in a hotel closer to the airport. We invited our dear friends for one more outing: pizza, a swim at the hotel pool, ice cream. And then we hugged one last time, said our teary goodbyes, and somehow got the kids to bed. After all, the next day we had a plane to catch.
The cab come for us before the sun was up. As we drove to the airport, I watched the first flecks of pink glimmer on the horizon, over the fields of corn. What a different view would be on our horizon just a few hours later as we landed near our new home; flying in to SFO. That first night there we had pizza again, but this time it was vegetarian artisan pizza in downtown Berkeley. It felt like we weren't just in another city or state; we were somehow in a whole other world.
Those first weeks I felt a mix of emotions. There was excitement, there was wonder, there was loneliness. It was bewildering to live in a new city: a place I felt immediate affection for, but in which I knew no one. I walked the streets of Berkeley an anonymous stranger with three kids in tow. I saw other moms with their friends at the park, at the Y, and longed to engage with them as easily as they did with one another. But, alas, I was an outsider, peering through the invisible glass at an intimacy that I had yet to earn, but was familiar enough to be remembered and longed for from a previous life.
And beneath the loneliness lay it’s sinister brother, fear. Fear that this was all a grave mistake. We had followed a crazy dream, a ludicrous belief that perhaps Jesus (yeah, seriously…that Jesus) had actually spoken to me years before about starting a spiritual community in Berkeley, California, a city I’d never even lived in before. We had followed this crazy dream to seminary. We’d followed it from Chicago to Iowa to Berkeley. But what if it really was only that: a crazy dream? What if I had just left the closest thing I’d ever know to vocational fulfillment: a wonderful job leading musical worship week after week, and serving on a fabulous team with other pastors for whom I have unrivaled respect? What if I never had the chance to preach or lead a band again? What if we had jumped off this cliff called “moving to Berkeley” only to crash and burn? What then?
Two years later, I find myself stunned and yet overwhelmingly, heart-bendingly grateful to be where we are now. Somehow, two years later, I am leading a small but fiercely fun and exciting faith community of around forty people that’s continuing to grow. We’ve moved from starting with just five people who all shared the same last name, to a house-based community, to a small church meeting in a local school. I now preach and lead musical worship pretty much every Sunday. And while my heart still aches when I think of my loved ones in the Plains, there is no question in my mind that this is home, that these people are our people, that this life is our life, and that somehow we are doing exactly what we were always meant to do.
Sometimes you just have to jump off the cliff to find out that, somehow, you have wings.