The past year has been nothing short of a whirlwind. I don’t know that I’ve experienced so much emotion in such a short amount of time. After all, I did meet my now husband, dated long distance (…like, states away), got married, and moved to a foreign land in just one year. Great anticipation with every flight to see him. Sadness for the in-between moments. Enjoyment in the excitement. Stress in the planning. Grace in the unknown.
Then also this past year, other things happened, these things beyond just me and my husband and my tiny corner of the world with my really great tribe in it. We, as a larger group of humans, wrestled and continue to wrestle with division among people we love. We sit with our friends who are afraid for their lives, yet are told they live in a free country with a mission to protect them. We’ve watched forces of nature destroy our backyards, and we’ve watched people struggle to redefine their every day and where they’re headed. We’ve seen word after word slung with the intention to break people. And it has.
On a hot mid-August day, I boarded a plane with intentions to physically move long-term to a place that set an awful lot of distance between me and my world in the past year. My community, my church, my job, my home, my rhythm, my family. They were difficult to leave, no doubt.
But then I also boarded a plane and left another part of my life. I left a front line view of the larger part of humanity in my world as I knew it. Just a few days ago on my walk to the grocery store, I began to think about distance. It started because I was listening to a podcast, where two of my favorite authors were having a conversation about something I don’t even remember anymore. But I got thinking about the distance between me and them – how I feel like I know them but they have no idea who I am. About how strange of a concept that must be. Then I thought about the distance to the store that I was on a journey to, about the distance to the next country I’m excited to visit, but I was most struck by the distance I am from home.
Everything here in Scotland is far away. And what I mean by that is that we don’t have a car here, so everything requires a slow, methodical foot journey to it. Gone are the days of a “quick trip” to the grocery store, because it’s at least a half an hour. There isn’t a quick trip to work, to friends, or to food, and life is slower here because of it. It forces me to notice the leaves actually changing. It forces me to see detail in the buildings I pass daily. It forces me to actually look at the face of someone I see on the street. And because there isn’t much to do in this slow, sleepy town, you invite and are invited into homes around tables where you’re given opportunity after opportunity to truly know people.
In many ways, this life at a distance, though slow, is teaching me about what this hurting world needs most. It’s teaching me about right rhythm to stop and notice, and it’s also teaching me that living far requires intentional efforts to move close. Because today, my life feels at a distance, both here where we walk everywhere, but also at a distance from the people and the places that are face to face with the realities of a fractured country .
So here I am, wondering what life at a distance is supposed to look like, what moving close looks like when you’re physically thousands of miles away. And what I’m realizing is that although there is space, it doesn’t mean we are given distance from our responsibility to act and immerse and involve ourselves in what’s happening in the world around us.
Maybe the distance is not always physical, but it’s the distance between genders. Between race. Between socioeconomic class. Between age. Maybe it’s the distance between a working woman in an office building and a working at home mom. It could be the distance between someone you love, who hasn’t felt close in a long time.
So how do we live our lives at a distance? We choose to show up – on a doorstep, around a table, in an office. And the choosing is difficult. Because the choice of showing up requires us to slow down enough to know and be known. Life at a distance in a hurting world requires us to move closer and the way we move closer is by knowing our neighbors’ stories and them knowing ours. It’s puts humanity right back into the fabric of our days and it pulls us into what makes us brothers and sisters rather than what makes us opposites and enemies. It’s vulnerability at it’s finest, and the lack of it is actually killing us. It’s dividing us. And it’s sending well-intentioned people in a thousand opposite directions.
So here’s life at a distance: Closing it. Through stories. Through the face-to-face. Through slowing down just enough to notice who is around you and where you still need to be present fully.