Friday, December 11, 2015

Seven Years

In Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl, Harriet Jacobs revealed that she spent seven years living in hiding in a garret crawlspace in her grandmother's house, after running away from her lustful, abusive master.

 When we get to this part of the book in class, I always ask the students to pause and really think about this length of time, to try and grasp what seven full years of hiding would mean to them.

Where were you seven years ago?
In 4th grade, some at CAJ, some not.

Where will you be seven years from now?
23, 24 years old, many finished with college, some married, some not.

It's a staggering thought exercise for the kids.  This year, it was staggering for me, too.

Where was I seven years ago?
I was driving west on I-90, from Iowa, home to Washington, wrestling with the biggest decision of my life.  I'd just finished my student teaching and graduated from college and had been invited to volunteer as a teacher in the resource room at the Christian Academy in Japan.

I was 22, single, and the most foreign country I had been to up until that point had been Canada.

I was inexperienced, and all of the pedagogy and best practice I had studied in college evaporated when I set foot in the classroom for the first time as "Mr. Gibson" earlier that fall.

The students were kind, though, and for that I'm still grateful, all these years later.

I thought I knew what I wanted: a quiet life in a small town; attending the high school football game on Friday evenings; grading at the diner with a bottomless pot of coffee; settling down with a wife with Dutch blood in her veins.

I knew it all.  I had it all figured out.

Then suddenly, my life and my future were thrown into disequilibrium by an opportunity I did not wish for, but could not refuse.
Spring 2009, a month or two after I
arrived in Japan.

That's where I was seven years ago.

In the intervening years, I've made plans and then changed them... again and again.

I've had moments of triumph in the classroom, and moments of defeat.

I've made wise decisions, and I've made foolish mistakes.

I've been content and I've been restless.

I've been confident and I've been insecure.

JAM--April 2009
I've felt belonging and I've wrestled with loneliness.

I've had crushes and I've had my heart broken.

I've fallen in love, and gotten married (she's not Dutch, but I'm more than fine with that).

I've watched my brother, and then my sister-in-law get married, too.

I've made new friends, and I've said goodbye to old friends.

I've been on the edge of a devastating earthquake, and countless small shakes.

Spring 2010
I've said goodbye to my last surviving grandparent as my grandmother passed away nearly four years ago (my other grandmother having passed away 7 years and one week ago).

I've moved four times.
Hong Kong, March 2009

I've crossed the Pacific Ocean 27 times.

I've been to Thailand 4 times, and Hong Kong once.  Guam, too!

I've been visited by each member of my family at least twice; three times for my brother.

I've traveled overseas with my wife five times, including a summer trip that took us through 11 states.

Wedding Day, Dec. 2013
I've "moonlighted" as a youth pastor for several years.

I've sung on my church's worship team.

I've coached middle school cross country and then watched those kids graduate from high school.

I've coached debate.

I've taught 9 different subjects and more than 360 students.

Thailand, March 2012
I've started and now almost finished my Master's.

I've taken 4 summer Japanese classes and a year's worth of weekly Japanese classes at city hall (and I'm still not fluent!).

I've been a learner and I've been a leader.  Currently, I'm both!

I've celebrated an anniversary.  Soon, it will be two.

A lot can happen in seven years.  While there have been storms and squalls along the way, I cannot fathom spending seven years in hiding, as Jacobs did.  God has blessed me richly, and as I reflect on the past seven years, His guidance, His provision, and His faithfulness are abundantly evident.

I do not know what the next seven years have in store, but I know that God is good, and His plans are perfect.  I can do no better than to trust and listen.
Worship team, Jan. 2013

Fall, 2011

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