Last Thursday marked three years that I’ve been doing this hobo thing. Three years since I last kept my books on a bookshelf. Three years since I had a reliable address. Three years since I saw any one person on a daily basis. Three years of deflating air mattresses and sleep deprivation and inconsistent eating habits and interminable drives.
Three years of audiobooks and stunning scenery, of granola bars and gas station coffee. Three years of trying to find an unlocked church and wondering where I’ll spend the night. Three years of awkward hellos and painful goodbyes, of changing trains in Brussels and changing oil in Missouri.
Three years of visiting dear old friends and being loved well by people who really know me. Three years of making new best friends out of strangers who happened to see a Facebook post. Three years of walking with people through the hardest moments of their lives and rejoicing with them in the most beautiful.
I’m there for the highs and the lows and many of the in-betweens. I’m privileged to see the Holy Spirit at work and to witness the power of Divine Providence. I’ve stayed in well over a hundred homes and never once had to get a hotel room.1
I’ve learned to trust (kind of). I’ve learned that I’m worth something even when I’m doing nothing. I’ve learned to listen to the Holy Spirit like never before. I’ve learned the power of homelessness to remind us that this world is not our home.
I’ve seen incredible communities and desperate loneliness. I’ve witnessed deep faithfulness and radical complacency. I’ve felt admired and ignored and abhorred and adored and disdained and accepted and misunderstood and loved.
Every day I’m grateful that you all let me love you. It’s not always easy, trying to be for someone different each day of the week with no idea who I’ll walk with tomorrow. But you’ve given me far more than I’ve given you. Thank you for your prayers and invitations, your words of encouragement and your Facebook shares. Thank you for inviting me into your homes and your lives, from London and Rome to Hicksville and Butte.
Cheering at the OKC marathon a few weeks back got me thinking: that’s basically what I do. I stand at the margins of strangers’ lives and scream for them to keep running. There are some who ignore me and some who grimace and others who step up their game when I beg them to. If you’re one of the ones who started running again after I stumbled through the words I thought you needed, thank you. I’m so grateful that the Lord lets me be a part of your path to him.
I have no idea how much longer this will go on. Some days it feels like it’s really beginning to wear on me. More often I lament that my life is far too easy; you don’t become a saint without suffering, after all. And while I have a marvelous extended community, it’s not the kind of community that rubs off your rough edges through daily annoyances. There’s a reason people don’t live like this, and it’s not just that nobody else is as extraverted as I am. It’s that people need stability and community and home. So while I’ve been given all kinds of grace to endure–more, to adore–an unnatural life, spring has me longing for a little old house surrounded by lilacs and filled with people who know me well.
And yet this life is good. And no place in particular tugs at my heart. So the pilgrim life continues. Jesus accomplished what he had to do in three years as a hobo missionary. It seems I’m less efficient. So right now we’ll aim for three and a half and regroup come December. Between now and then, I’ve got the Dakotas, Nebraska, Kansas, Oklahoma, Virginia, Maryland, North Carolina, Georgia, Ohio, Massachusetts, Connecticut2, Toronto, England, Scotland, Wales, Ireland3, St Louis, Oklahoma, New Mexico, Arizona, California, Oregon, Washington, Texas, Louisiana, Alabama, Georgia, North Carolina, and Virginia. So, you know the drill. If you’re in (or between–Washington to Texas is not a day’s drive) any of those places, drop me a note and I’ll come be your friend.