The list came out today.
And it wasn’t Santa’s.
Mike sent me a text message this morning that read: “Two things: the pumpkin yogurt is really strong and the vacancy lists came out. Sending them to you now.”
The Chobani pumpkin yogurt is really strong. It’s pretty gross, actually.
But the bigger point is that Mike sent me the list with all the job vacancies that apply to the Marine and our moving address next summer. Eighteen possibilities listed on a tidy excel spreadsheet that he color-coded for my viewing pleasure.
Naturally I spent the rest of my day accumulating hypothetical details for 18 versions of our hypothetical life. I talked to friends that have lived in places on the list: North Carolina, South Carolina, Florida, and Japan. Oddly enough, Saudi Arabia was included on the list as well, but I’m surprisingly short on Saudi friends, so I know next to nothing about that hypothetical version of our life.
My investigation relied heavily on Wikipedia and Google images to introduce me to foreign and bizarrely humid portions of the East Coast. It seems like people wear a lot of polo shirts there. And there are also a lot of trees.
San Diego was on the list, too, a familiar friend asking if we are still interested in cohabitation. And to be honest, we don’t know what to say. This family of adventurers is quite interested but also very restless. We are comforted by the option to stay, but captivated by the option to go.
I looked at the list over and over, with a racing heart and sweaty armpits. Mike made phone calls and sent emails trying to scope out what the jobs would be and what part of America would feel like home if we decided to make it ours.
Every time the list comes out, the Marine is supposed to rank his top five choices and then submit it to the deciding authority. That deciding authority in the Marine Corps is called the Monitor and the Monitor is supposed to look at the list and match each Marine to a job based on his requested preferences. Sometimes the Marine gets his first or third or fifth preference. Sometimes he gets Yuma.
At the church staff meeting today, my friends prayed over me while I stretched my hands wide open as if they were waiting to be held. My friends prayed clarity and grace and peace over my family while I leaked mascara tears out the corners of my crumpled-up eyes. The tears weren’t sourced from sadness. They were sourced from tired uncertainty. And it was such a relief to hear prayers spoken with certainty, as if words themselves could chase away the bully of confusion.
And I left feeling lighter. Not surer, just lighter.
It rained today in San Diego and it never rains. I drove home on wet streets with cracked windows while Molly smacked on her favorite thumb. When I got home, I opened the windows and the front door and let the cool air rush through the house like a big purifying breath.
Something new is happening, I suspect. I don’t know where it’s happening or exactly when it will arrive, but change is often an unnamed suspicion that first creeps through the doors and windows until I finally open them wide.
Mike and I are participating in Advent this year and in today’s devotional reading Debbie Eaton writes: “The beauty of Advent is found when we look back at our rich history and peer into the window of God’s perfect plan for His family… Our creator always has a plan, one that takes a tiny seed and multiplies it abundantly— a plan that takes a tiny baby born of humble means and makes Him a King, the Savior of the world.”
If God had a time-proven specialty, it is in taking humble means and exercising them for a redemptive purpose. Our story that is unfolding on the surface—the military orders or the when and how of change— it is all anchored to a bigger storyline. There is purpose at play even when I can’t see it yet, even when I can’t name it yet. And it brings me great relief to know that even if the surface story is shaky and unclear, it is always anchored to a better one.
Jesus staged a time-appropriate rescue for a people that were restlessly waiting for him. He came wrapped in disorienting details: through a virgin in a borrowed stable as a baby-packaged King. It took the whole world by surprise, because frankly the storyline looked a little weird.
So we are left to assume that uncertainty and surprise and disorientation are not features of a bad story, but of a good one. Redemptive purpose will always rise to the surface in the midst of wits-end waiting and circular, unproductive planning. It will find me in my first choice or third or fifth or in Yuma, just like it found shepherds and wise men and a virgin who were all unsure and afraid, but they were available and they were chosen and they were willing to press into tension until it yielded purpose.
And that’s when the story got good.
That’s when Jesus showed up like a miracle.
And that’s when a long list of possibilities narrowed to exactly one answer.