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Returning home & asking NOW WHAT?

After flying back from Colorado last night, I hugged my wife and kids and slept in my own bed.  As usual, I woke up with Whimsy having snuggled next to me.  When I woke up, the cats were mewing for attention, and Abby (our ancient, doddering mutt) hobbled up the steps to whine me a gree…
By Seth Barnes
By Seth Barnes
After flying back from Colorado last night, I hugged my wife and kids and slept in my own bed.  As usual, I woke up with Whimsy having snuggled next to me.  When I woke up, the cats were mewing for attention, and Abby (our ancient, doddering mutt) hobbled up the steps to whine me a greeting of her own.  It’s good to be home.
Back at the office, I’ve fired myself from most of my jobs at AIM so that I can take trips like this last one. Having started the World Race three years ago, I’m beginning to ask the question of what happens after people finish the race.  So, deep in Colorado’s Black Forest, Gary Black, Andrew Shearman (plus Paschall and Hearn) and I met with a number of  World Race alumni who are asking the question “Now what?”  It’s the same question the disciples asked themselves after Jesus was crucified.  If “Have you met Jesus?”  is the most important question we can ask, then “Now what?” has got to follow hard on its heels.
What do you do after you’ve held dying babies and walked through the muddy streets of the poor?  What do you do after your world view has been turned upside down?  What do you do after you’ve been disabused of your narcissism? What do you do after you’ve seen the power of God manifested through your finger tips to bring healing to the nations? Everything is different – now what?
These are questions that can incite revolutions and overturn the social order.  If we take the time to allow the implications of our radical commitment to work their way through the corridors of our lives and disturb our sense of normal, we might become the crazy radicals that God always dreamed we would be. You and I need to ask these questions if we are to live lives worthy of our calling.
Always there is the issue of family and friends who can’t help but treat us like the same old mousy person we may have been before we left  on our adventures.  In many ways, that is the first and most difficult of the battles we face.  Like Odysseus returning to a home, we may feel heroic, but our antagonists are unseen and we can’t help feeling unprepared for them.  The best thing some of our Racers have done is to apologize to their parents for the person they’ve been in the past and for the pain they’ve caused.  And others have kept their bags packed, recognizing that the comforts of home no longer work for them. Yet, too many of them have slid back under the anesthetic of suburban life. We haven’t figured out how to answer this question.
Along with our Racers, I’m still learning, but here’s what I think I’ve discovered about returning home:  First, you need community.  The new ways of thinking and behaving you’ve acquired need time before they become habit.  You need people around you who understand you and know how to encourage you in your new life.  
And second, you need further fathering.  You need someone to continue to call you to greatness and to a life of asking “what if?”  Peers are not enough, mothers are not enough.  40% of all birth certificates lack a father’s name.  Until our father wounds and the insecurities that they bring can be addressed, we will still drag our past behind us and will struggle to become the radicals God intended us to be.
If Jesus took three years to radicalize his disciples, I think that’s probably the minimum.  In our church youth groups we’re always trying to do it on the cheap, but I really think it takes something like the World Race to wreck us for the ordinary followed by two more years of intensive investment if we are to ever help this next generation get its destiny and begin going out into the nations to unleash the power of God.
Here’s a list of resources for World Racers returning home.

Comments (12)

  • WOW!!! This is awesome!! I leave in five weeks and this question has been coming up lately for me and I have been asking God this. Thanks for writing this blog Seth!!!

  • I had this experience following my deployment. I came home and ranted and raved about the injustices of our society and how everyone is distracted by meaningless prioritiesand everyone just looked at me funny and went about their business. They were tolerant, but not understanding. It was so disheartening to realize that my experiences couldn’t change them. But it had changed me so much.

    Even now, I’ve assimilated back in many ways. But what does help is that my husband also was deployed to the same region at the same time (though we never met), and so we can remind each other of what we saw. When we need to make an important decision about our lives, we both can remember Nagala at the front gate and how she struggled to sell necklaces to Americans to feed her whole family. We can remind each other how much more the Afghans smile than we do and how much less they have…and it helps us to make a hard decision like going into a communal living situation to share resources.

    I’m able to hold onto some of the things I learned because I have Andy to talk to about them and remember these things. It makes a big difference.

  • good blog. i think at the end of the day, you’re still looking for a remnant. realizing that has helped me not get disappointed with the “results” of discipleship.

  • NOW WHAT? is what I emailed to Tom when we returned from China in 2004…and it is what every team we have taken to Russia or Swaziland has come home asking… We can prepare to go..and thrive while there, feeling broken and seeing Jesus everywhere we look…but when we return it’s always NOW WHAT?

  • I ditto Allison! Your encouragement and dedication in sticking with us once the ‘year’ is over is teaching me a lot about the commitment needed toward one another in this whole thing called life.

  • Seth this is an unbelievably important question. Not just for the World Race. But for the discipleship process as a whole, probably in every church (at least in the West, perhaps in the world). The question is, after a truly transforming experience with God, how do we keep from conforming to the world around us? And, unfortunately, that often includes the religious part of our culture that we call the “Christian” world. How do we become the mighty men & women of God that we need to be, long term, even though it upsets many an apple cart in the surrounding world? It’s too long of a discussion for a blog response, I suppose, but I am glad you put words to it.

  • There is a book called Sacred Companions that a small group of us have agreed to work through together with the goal of covenanting together, sharpening one another, challenging one another. For the moment we all need to be right where we are, but are longing for community and living out our faith for real-Anyone read it?

  • What if the “now what?” portion of the journey was a PART of the WR experience? a 14+ month process with a couple of community/fathering/kitchen table months tacked on to the end? we all talk about the time needed to “decompress” … what if?

    just thinking out loud here. 🙂

    then again, I know that if i had not come “back” immediately after the Race, i would have missed some of the lessons i’ve learned. most hard/super ugly, but needed nonetheless.

    thanks seth. thanks for committing to us.

  • Great blog, who’s meaning and truths are not lost five years on. Nor is the question yet answered. Keep asking, keep trying new variations. Some will work of some, some for others.

  • Seth – good stuff…but I still wonder about how this looks for me. I have no doubt in my mind or heart that I am where I belong with a long term vision instilled in me by God, and yet, there is not the community of which you speak or the fathering. So for me, I know I am not called to Colorado, or Gainesville for the communities there. So I’m praying for it, and looking and waiting.

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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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