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Above the Clouds

Today’s post is by Bryan Berghoef.

The red seatbelt sign combined with the sense of forward thrust told me we were about to take off. I briefly set down my Kindle—along with the drama of Russian intrigue, romance, and battle as depicted in Tolstoy’s War and Peace—to gaze out the window. A cold, clear day in Washington DC. I had just arrived only a week ago, and now I was taking off again.

A microcosm, perhaps of our recent experience of moving to DC from Michigan for twenty months, and then moving back much sooner than expected.

It was my first trip back to DC since we moved this past July. It was amazing how easy it was to get back into the rhythm of city life: taking the Metro, hitting favorite coffee shops and micro-brew serving establishments, going to work in the office at Shalem, and seeing old friends and neighbors. It was a delight to be back.

In between the fun there was certainly nostalgia as well. The saddest moment was walking in our old neighborhood, wandering into the quiet neighborhood park after dark, sitting on a cold bench, and envisioning all the fun our family had there—whether playing baseball with my oldest two boys, pushing my youngest two on the swings, or getting neighborhood kids involved in a game of wiffle ball.

This week was also a busy time at Shalem as we hosted the Contemplative Voices Award benefit on Sunday featuring Cynthia Bourgeault, had a board meeting on Monday, and a full day of training for our new website on Tuesday.

By the time I got on the plane I was pretty wiped out. My mind and heart were in various places all at once. I thought of all the work I had to do, the daily realities of life I was returning to. I reveled in the joy of reconnecting—gathering with friends at the pub to talk theology, celebrating a friend’s book release with an improvisational cooking session, enjoying an amazing house concert in my old neighborhood. This busyness and joy mixed with the bittersweet sensation of feeling so at home in a place where I no longer live, and once again feeling that I was leaving too soon.

The plane sped quickly down the runway, and we were flying. It was a full flight, and I wondered about what was happening with all the other individuals seated about me in the cabin. Were they coming, or going? Filled with hope about a new venture? Regretful about something that had already passed? We all sat strapped in, facing forward, regardless of our inner state.

After reading a few more pages of War and Peace, I again looked out the window: houses, roads, and cars had grown miniscule. A few wispy clouds soon turned to a peaceful and soft down blanket upon which we floated.

We passed several states in such fashion, and as we flew in that clear, tranquil space—the bright sun shining on us, the soft white canopy over the world below us—I felt a nudge to exhale. To trust. To rest in the ambiguity. To know that distance might shift relationships, but it does not need to end them. To know that there is a larger whole that I often forget. To remember there is One who invites me to trust that this floating sphere, with its ongoing drama, is loved.

In this liminal space we flew. And I was at peace.


Bryan Berghoef is a pastor and writer who helps curate Shalem’s social media content and provides technical support for Shalem’s online courses. He lives with his family in Holland, Michigan. You can follow Bryan on Facebook and Twitter.

Image via WikiMediaCommons

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