Archive for July, 2012

31
Jul
12

Coming home?

In the history of this blog these past six months have been the longest hiatus without any new blog entries. In some way it surprises me. A Ukrainian friend of mine wrote me shortly after our son Marcus was born and expressed that he was looking forward to hearing me blog about my experiences as a father. For some reason that hasn’t happened. Some friends said to me that it was – of course – just because I am not sleeping quite enough these days that I don’t have many philosophical thoughts about life. It would be easy to agree with them, but I know that’s not the truth. The truth is that it’s been bugging me that I can’t seem to organize my thoughts and figure out what’s going on inside of me. I can’t seem to focus on what I want to be all about. I can’t seem to move in courage and faith into the things of God that I know he’s inviting me into. I’m afraid. Afraid of more loneliness.

A few thoughts on fatherhood now that I might have your attention. I love being a dad to beautiful little Marcus. He is a great joy to behold, even as I write where he’s laying on the floor playing in his Tennessee Volunteers pj’s that our dear friend, Tim Huddleston brought to Marcus from the Smoky Mountains state. He’s great. He’s fun. He’s lots of smiles and craziness. And yet, I’ve been almost perpetually disappointed in myself this past half year. Disappointed in my reactions when things are not easy. Disappointed in my lack of patience. Disappointed that I don’t seem to do what I need to be doing most of the time. Disappointed that my flesh is as ugly as it is when it comes to anybody invading my space and making sure that my schedule and my ideas can’t happen. Having a baby surely, at least in my case, has forced me to stare the beast of my flesh even deeper into its ugly eyes. It ain’t pretty. My wife, Jeannette, has been great at encouraging me and reminding me that I’m doing a great job as a dad. I don’t know if I believe her most of the time, but I also know that it’s been good for me with all the reminders of how Jesus deals with me when I scream, whine and won’t surrender to what’s really best for me. Marcus is a baby in my arms. And often I’m a baby in Jesus’ arms. I want to surrender, but I end up working against what I really want, just like Marcus does when he is sleepy and can’t seem to surrender to the sweet release of sleep. It’s humbling for sure. I’m glad Marcus is as forgiving and forgetting as he is. I’m glad that he always receives me with a smile and a giggle. I wish I received Jesus’ invitations with the same cheerfulness and trust. Maybe it’s trust that Jesus wants to teach me. Despite having known Jesus intimately for many years, that issue remains a problem. It’s hard to trust him. It’s hard to let go.

Coming home to Denmark has been a challenge. Is this really home? I haven’t lived in this country the past nine years, and I feel so different than I did as a young twenty-something year old sans wife and baby back in the day. Some people have said that it must be nice to be home, but I never know how to reply to that question. Sure, there is something familiar about being here in the country of my roots and with my mother tongue being spoken everywhere. But I don’t know if I feel more at home here than I do everywhere else in this world I’ve been. There are huge blessings connected to the life I’ve been living these past nine years. I love my global perspective. I love the familiarity I feel with people and cultures from around the globe. I love that I have friends where I know their hearts from Kyrgyzstan, Germany, Ukraine, the Philippines, and countless other countries. There is such a richness to that. But there is also the other side of that same coin: I belong everywhere, and in a sense, I belong nowhere. It’s been lonely since coming home. I’m struggling to find my feet under me. What am I to be all about this next year in Denmark. How do I connect with people I run into? I’ve had fun trying to talk more to people that I meet out and about. Danes normally don’t initiate conversations with people we don’t know. In fact we’ll go to great lengths to avoid conversations with strangers. But my theory has been that if someone initiates a chat, Danes are like everybody else and enjoy a little conversation. So far my theory has proven valid.

It’s been four years since I wrote this blog entry about a line that Jesus challenged me with from the film version of C. S. Lewis’ Prince Caspian. (I’m back again after a short break. Marcus just needed some kisses and hugs from his Daddy that helped assure him that’s he’s okay. Don’t we all need those times? Often?!). I’m still there. Four years later. I’m still afraid to jump fully. Some people say to me that I’ve jumped much further into the crazy waters of faith than they ever have. I know the truth is that I’m still, in many ways, standing at the edge, afraid of losing my footing completely if I fall deeper into the ravine that is Jesus’ love and Jesus’ invitation to truly let go and learn to live with him as the only center in my life. I hear his invitation, I know he won’t force me, and yet I continue to hesitate. I wonder how I would react if someone continued to hesitate to accept an invitation I extended four years ago? I’m glad Jesus doesn’t have my temper and my impatience. I’m glad he understands. I’m glad that he, despite what my flesh and unfortunately much of Christian tradition say, is never disappointed in me.

He knows I’m afraid to lose more than I feel I have. I have friends all over the world, but few in my home country. I have lots of people who care about me and us, but very few that I could call on a gray Wednesday. I have lots of people who look up to me when it comes to faith and living radically, but few I can share all my fears and struggles with. I encounter many individuals who find my story of living on support and pursuing the Kingdom of God full strength on a global scale this past decade fascinating, but few people who know how to relate to me and pursue a friendship once they hear the same story. While living in the United States I often wished that I could answer: “my name is Tom Smith, I’m from Wisconsin, and I work as a teacher” when asked to introduce myself. Somehow “my name is Torben Riis Jensen, I’m from Denmark, and I work as a missionary and Christian counselor” seemed to make it harder for people to relate to me…These days, I’m running into that here in Copenhagen too. Copenhagen, as the capital city of Denmark, is a modern, cosmopolitan city, but still it’s difficult for people I meet at church to know what to do with this scruffy-bearded young(ish) man with his tales of living in England, Ukraine, and the United States, and his stories of encountering people in Greenland, South Korea, Malaysia, Nigeria, and Moldova. Connection points are few. Sometimes I just wish I were a school teacher…(and no, I’m NOT attacking school teachers in any way, shape or form, it just happens to be a job that most people can relate to without too much explanation 🙂)

Why do I even write this? What do I want? Your pity? No. Not at all. I guess I don’t really want anything. It’s just how life is. Just how my life is. Nothing too unusual about it. Nothing that lots of people can’t relate to. But it is my reality nonetheless. Sometimes it’s nice to be seen as unique. It used to mean a heck of a lot to me. Now I don’t need it (as much) anymore. But that doesn’t mean it’ll necessarily change.

So Jesus invites me, again, into deeper life with him. Away from people. Away from friends and family. Into places I fear. Into places in the depths of my heart that will challenge, bless, and change me. I fear that change. I fear the increase in loneliness that (sometimes? often? always?)follows when you dig really deep into the beauty of Jesus. Most people will not understand. It’s how it is.

So where is home for me? Jeannette and I followed this past season of American Idol religiously. And in God’s great sense of humor he’s using the winner’s, Phillip Philipps, first single to encourage me. I thought the lyrics to Home would bless Jeannette as she’s struggling to settle into unfamiliar surroundings here in my home country. But the truth is this ain’t my home anymore than it is hers, and I can’t help her the way I wished I could. But somehow Jesus is speaking to me through this song. Maybe he’s the one who is gonna make this place our home. At least for a season. I hear the demons that fill me with fear. Fear for today. Fear for tomorrow. And I have no answer to their lies. Maybe Jesus will take care of us on this unfamiliar road as well?

Blessings, Torben

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