Last week I spoke briefly with a man on the edge of a river I was boating through with a group that unexpectedly had an extra day for sightseeing.
Traveling the few hours to Rio Dulce, we loaded into a few boats and spent some hours on the river. We walked through small marketplaces, consumed authentic dishes for lunch at a waters-edge restaurant and slowed down the day by slipping into some hot springs that have indiscriminately made their home in one of the tiny coves.
It was at the hot springs that I stumbled upon this weathered and leathered man. I have a feeling he was only a fraction of the age he looked- the years of sun and travels not being kind to him, this thought exacerbated by a pair of walking canes accompanying him and his wisp of a woman joining as a lunch companion. Long blonde hair barely a breath above his shrimp and rice, I received a slight “Buenas Dias” complete with a sideways grin. His Spanish was perfect, and in our insignificant 2 minute conversation where he actually hailed from was lost on me.
“Where are you from?”
“The states, New York and Virginia.”
“Ah, you are a long way from your home. What kind of adventures are you looking for here?”
“Well, I’m actually living in Guatemala for some time, I know I’ll be here for a year. I’m working with a Christian aid organization.”
And here it is….
“Well that’s quite romantic. I wish you many good things on this journey of yours.”
You know what struck me about the conversation this man and I had?
That little word… romantic.
I can’t tell, even now, if he was being snide- or if he truly intended his “romantic” sentiment.
Time and time again I have heard people romanticize the idea of leaving all behind- people, things, success, money, relationships… abandoning ship and running off on an adventure to the wildest of places to change the world.
Don’t get me wrong, I love this new chapter for so many reasons.
But it’s hard, and far from a romantical, idealized perception of adventure.
Instead it’s many things that are much more than idealistic…
I’m going to take another step.
There’s nothing romantic about dying children, poverty, and a world without Christ either.
That’s the most challenging piece- the fact that there is serious work that consumes everyday life. It takes the dreaminess out of the ideal. Granted, there’s a magic that will always be within ministry, it would be impossible to do Kingdom work without feeling that. But I don’t think when Christ prayed for His disciples and those to follow them (us), that He prayed for us to take off on romantic adventures.
Instead, He prayed for us in light of the fact that we would be sent into the world filled with challenges, persecution, and hate.
We’d be sent into the same world that He was sent into…
So while this is not a particularly romantic adventure, the greater love at work in the daily ministry adventures; it is the most pursuant romance of all…
This is the reason for joy in our work.
It’s what wakes us up every morning.
It is what energizes us when we’re working.
It is what helps us see past dirt, scorpions, and sweat- to the joy beyond… the romance that drenches the Gospel as we live it out.