|Lambert Airport, desolate in the early morning.|
It was early in the morning, and the runways of Lambert Field were still dark and a song about going home was blaring on my iPod headphones. I was sitting there by the gate, wearing my Red Sox jersey. I had a cup of Starbucks in my hand as the coffee caused the acid in my stomach to swell up into my esophagus. My heart was in my throat. I was exhausted, broken hearted, and just wanted to get to Boston, and the Red Sox game on the other side of this flight.
It was early in the morning, the sun was rising over Boston Harbor. I sat by the gates wearing the collared shirt that they had given me as a tennis coach at BC High. I was exhausted from a long night of grading, but I was excited. Louis Armstrong was blaring in my IPod headphones singing the St. Louis blues, the school year had just ended, and I was going to St. Louis for the wedding of two good friends. The Dunkin' Donuts coffee in my hand was waking me up, and the Boston cream donut was giving me a sugar high. I couldn't wait to get to the golf course in forest park.
|Fenway Park, my destination that day.|
I landed in Boston, after having been kicked repeatedly by the child in the seat behind me I was even more tired from lack of sleep. There, on the way up the jetway, I could smell the salt air coming off the water. As I cross the gate I saw the sign that said "Welcome to Boston," and I was back where I began. I made my way down to baggage claim, and my father and brother were waiting there. We grabbed my overstuffed suitcase, loaded it into my Dad's car, and took off for Fenway Park.
|Dan and Matt on the Triple A course.|
The plane landed in St. Louis, and not a moment too soon. I had slept the whole way, but began looking nervously at my watch. I had a half an hour to make it to the golf course for the round of golf the morning before my friends Dan and Sarah's wedding. I called Dan, grabbed a cab to Forest Park's "Triple A" course, and urged the cabby on to take shortcuts. The cabby understood that I knew where I was going, and rather than taking me for a ride he took me right there, I got out of the cab a few minutes before tee time and was excited to go.
|Dan and Sarah get married.|
It was Monday afternoon. The wedding was amazing. After the wedding a trolley took the entire wedding party and ushers, and the acolyte (me) around the city. We went to the ballpark, Ted Drews, Tower Grove park, and Dan and Sarah's house. I saw alot of good friends, and I was ready, at last, to go home. As I crossed through the gates and onto the plane, I was careful not to hake the dust from my feet. One last time I had walked on holy ground with friends, and I was finally ready to move on.
|Boston from the Charlestown side.|
The plane landed in Boston, my brother picked me up at the airport, and finally, a year after moving back, I was home.
One of the greatest struggles in Jesuit life, particularly early on, can be the need to move on. Just at about the point that you feel like setting down roots somewhere, every three years or so, it is time to move on. It can be heartbreaking leaving people and places behind to move on into the future, even if you know that it is a future full of promise and hope. It is hard letting go and saying goodbye, and can be even harder learning how to land too. Sometimes the places that we go don't really become home, even when they really are home, for some time after.
|Back home, teaching, and finally happy|
What I found that weekend, a year after I moved back to Boston, was gratitude. There were some loose ends when I left the St. Louis. There were people and places that I just hadn't really said goodbye to yet, or that I hoped would still be a part of my life in the same way that they had been when that part of my life came to an end. When my life in St. Louis was stripped away, I spent a great deal of time focused on all of the things that I had lost rather than all of the things that I had returned to in Boston. Going back to St. Louis was saying goodbye. I had been back once in the interim, but I think that I still had hope that the somehow I could live both in my past in St. Louis and in my present in Boston. Rather than being grateful for the past and hopeful for the future, I was envious of what was behind and fearful of what was ahead. The fear was so great, in fact, that it threw a lot of things in doubt and question in my life and made me just want to be done with all of the moving around, and to settle down.
That weekend in St. Louis changed a lot of things though, the truth is that when I went back I realized that even in the past year so much had moved on and changed without me, and that moreover, I had changed. St. Louis was a place where I had been richly blessed, but that time had come and gone, and the present that I was living in in Boston and was finally full of just the sort of joy that God desires for each of us.
|Some of the friends that made those three years|
In each of our lives there are times that we pass through those gates, those things that mark the end of one time and the beginning of another. Like the people of Israel in the desert we may even want to return to Egypt. Familiar is comfortable, even if it is ultimately untenable. The future, devoid of trust in God, can be nothing short of terrifying to the point of paralysis. In other words, we can settle for the present and be afraid to have hope of something more. The good news is that God is better to us than to give up on us. If we can see the joy in our lives, if we can see God in the present, then that is reason enough to be grateful for the past and hopeful for the future. That is precisely what my friends in Boston, my life of prayer, and my joy in my new work gave me. I could return to St. Louis grateful for what it had meant, and hopeful finally for my future.
"For I know what I have planned for you,' says the LORD. 'I have plans to prosper you, not to harm you. I have plans to give you a future filled with hope." In the book of Jeremiah (29:11) God tells this to the people of Israel, even as they go off into exile. If even in that moment God wants to give them hope, then in each joyful moment we can have hope too. Now, just hours from 30, I know that I need to remember that. God knows the plans he has for us.. go ahead, go through that gate.