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Making Sense of Life after the World Race

  That’s my L squad guys from two years ago in the picture – the ones I coached for a year. I stay in touch with a lot of them and have talked to them at length about “how do we do what Jesus did?” so I don’t worry about them like I do other racers who have finished their race.   M…
By Seth Barnes
By Seth Barnes
That’s my L squad guys from two years ago in the picture – the ones I coached for a year. I stay in touch with a lot of them and have talked to them at length about “how do we do what Jesus did?” so I don’t worry about them like I do other racers who have finished their race.
Most racers don’t realize that the World Race is just the first year in a three year discipleship process based on Jesus’ model. In fact, if it could be summarized in one word, that word might be “deconstruction.” The Race challenges so many of our preconceptions. It’s a challenging process that most racers struggle to complete. My guess is that maybe 10% of racers finish it.
I was emailing Morgan Mckeown about this. She was on the first official World Race squad in 2007. “Why is re-entry so hard?” I asked. What advice would you give racers?
Morgan wrote the following:

It’s been a long time since I finished the World Race.  Seven years to be exact.  Seth, a line you wrote about reentry deeply struck me…

“This next phase of life you’re going through is a practical season where the high, holy poetry of the soul picks up a dish rag and is confronted with messy spirituality.  We’re not allowed to build booths on the Mount of Transfiguration.  We have to return to a land where checkbooks need balancing and cars need oil changes. “

This messy spirituality was a huge part of my post Race experience. Idealism and reality crashed into each other.  I didn’t know how to live in one without losing the other. 

When I got off the Race I was hired as a counselor for people who lost their homes in the 2007 California wildfires.  As we were trained in post trauma reactions, I came to a scary realization…. I was in trauma. I had all the signs and symptoms.  I was grateful for that training because I learned what was helpful in dealing with trauma. That knowledge helped me to walk through reentry with out thinking I was crazy.   

There is no denying it; reentry for most Racers is difficult.  It was a very, very hard season for me, but God eventually brought beauty into what felt like a pile of ashes.  After my own experience and being with a lot of other Race Alums in the San Diego area, here are a few of my thoughts.  

1.  Have a flexible realistic plan.  

This doesn’t mean give up on dreams, but I think it’s almost impossible to dream when you don’t have the finances for your next meal or a home to live in.  I think it needs to be expressed to returning Racers that it’s absolutely all right to take a job for a season or find some stability, but that’s not a place to get complacent. Finding contentment in the season you are in is beautiful, while complacency is the enemy.  

2.  Hold on to the dreams God has given you.

Stability is a gift, and it gives space for dreams to take shape. At the same time it’s important for Race Alum to be given avenues to define and pursue the dreams God has given them.

3.  Watch out for post-Race pride.

This is something I often notice when talking with returning Racers.  It materializes in so many ways. It’s a quick slip from frustration with the American church to spiritual pride.  

4.  Search out Kingdom minded people/community.

This is imperative. In my experience, it took a ton of time, effort and initiative to build good community around myself.  It didn’t just happen, it was WORK, but it’s been a lifeline. 

5.  Give yourself grace.

I had a huge breakdown on January 1, 2008 which I wrote about in I Was Homeless Once. I had told my self that was the day my life would be back together.  Turns out God had a different timeline.  Eventually the pieces fell into place.  It was hard to live in limbo when all I wanted was for my life on the Race to integrate seamlessly with life at home.  

6.  Integration!  

This is key.  How does one take all that God taught them on the Race and integrate it with life back in the US?  How do you live a Kingdom minded life in the day to day? How do we give people tools to do that?  What experiences and materials will help… not just those who are called to live in Georgia, but those who want to figure out how to do it in their communities.  

How do we help people tread though the difficult season of reentry?  Often times I feel like Racers swing to one of two extremes… staying in a Race type lifestyle at the expense of living things out in their own community, or running the other way, settling too quickly back into the “American Dream,” and loosing any Kingdom dreams conceived on the Race.  

I know it’s is possible… maybe it’s time to take a look at people who have had a successful post-Race integration and see what has made it that way. 

Comments (16)

  • This is a really great post- Morgan makes a lot of good points (especially #3)., I think the integration step is one of the most important, yet most illusive. I wonder what you or Morgan would suggest in order to integrate those world race experiences into a life in America. Perhaps, if it is a 3 year journey, we could learn some steps for year 2.

    • What Morgan says about kingdom-focused community is essential. Racers should prioritize this above all else. Get a job after you’ve got community. Racers need the encouragement and accountability of those who can relate to their experiences.

      Finding someone to disciple you is also essential. Change has happened, but it is not permanent. Without the guidance of those who can help you avoid the rocks in the road, the odds are that the change won’t solidify as habits and lifestyle.

  • Love the picture Seth!

    We look like kids, young and idealistic, still convinced we could save the world in 11 short months. I hardly recognize the guys in this picture. They look different now, much more of a veterans look. It seems the race added 5 years.

    Great advice here. I especially love the comment about “not being allowed to setup booths on the mount of transfiguration.”

    Sometimes I see people coming home with confusion. They think this life style is forever. The principals taught remain but the practical application will shift with the seasons. It’s cliche because we say it so much but… “God wants to do a new thing.”

    I’m reminded when God led Israelites in the Desert there was a cloud by day and pillar of fire by night. Manna rained from heaven 6 days a week and their clothes never wore out.

    But that season came to an end.

    God brought them into their inheritance where they had to work the land for food. They had to fight to hold their territory. They were asked to do hard things and apply the principals they learned in the desert to their new life. There’s a sense of spiritual transition into maturity.

    When you’re a spiritual child He tells you what exactly you should be doing and provides for you. But over time He asks you to partner with Him to build something. He invites you to use the creative power He’s placed in you.

    All too often I find we look up say, “Where’s the mana?”

  • I like the way you’ve applied yourself after the race, Bryan. You’ve worked hard and not waited for others to create a future for you.

  • How do you live a Kingdom minded life in the day to day?
    That question is not just for post racers. My husband and I ask that question all the time. Once God enlightens you, you realize just how caught up in the culture you are. We desire to live a Godly lifestyle, but not quite sure what that looks like exactly. Morgan said “Idealism and reality crashed into each other. I didnt know how to live in one without losing the other.” This is where a lot of Christians find themselves. Would love to hear what God has shown you about this.

  • Seth the questions and pondering insights are solid. I have come to believe we are called to live in a vortex where tensions are managed…problems unsolved….all while “The Dude Abides.”

  • Great post! I remember when our squad had our training camp years ago & hearing stories of how we would be wrecked. Well, it’s easy to be wrecked on the race and I can say that it has continued to do so.

    Wondering if I am still in ‘re-entry’?! Literally had one of those ‘ugly crying’ type breakdowns at church this past week…I have had the most difficult time just trying to BE…to be myself, to be part of a local church body, to be a wife , to be a mom… Constantly feeling like I don’t fit in at church & wrestling with why I feel so discontent & so judgmental. Definitely remember coming off the race with a lot of spiritual pride; maybe I still have it but surfacing in a different way? Having a very hard time with ‘the american church’…ugh. sound like a ‘disgruntled with the american church christian’ cliche. :/ I’m sure it’s only a matter of time before the Lord reveals to me more of His heart for His bride & my own need for His Body, including ‘the american church’.

    Just trying to figure out what it means to be a Christian…

    • With all of your discontent, I love your honesty, Jessica. You may be a mess, but you’re a self-aware mess!

      And hey – it’s no crime to see what Jesus saw in Rev. 3 as he looked at some of his churches.

  • Thanks, Shayna. I never felt like I helped you as much as I wanted to. Let me know if there is ever anything I can do for you – you were one of my favorites.

  • I definitely identify with all these thoughts, since we jumped right back out with CSquad after coming home on N we’ve really only encountered about 6mo. of ,”re-entry”. Community has been the most difficult part & it is easy to feel like going back to work is giving up on the life the Worldrace awakens us too. Giving up on Adventure. However, through the difficult season the Lord has remained constant while we scramble to figure things out & strive to integrate without forgetting worldview. The Worldrace messes you up!

    All this while sitting in Qatar, waiting to board our flight to Malaysia to see C finish strong.. Church is confusing, community is strange, working at Chickfila is difficult. The Lord is amazing & continues to remind me that He’s for us.

  • Jeff,

    I think the Lord gives us the parts of the kingdom that we’re hungry for. That hunger is the thing that activates the kingdom. It is the yeast that continues to grow that he describes in Matt. 13. If you’re hungry for community, that is a kind of a prayer. Keep praying it with greater intensity and the Lord will use you to make the kingdom come.

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Seth Barnes

I'm motivated to join God in his global reclamation project. He's on the move, setting his sons and daughters free from their places of captivity. And he's partnering with those of us who have been freed to go and free others.

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