Taking Stock: Norway, Japan, hope, and purpose

My husband’s paternal great-grandparents immigrated to the United States from Norway, leaving behind many close family members. Three generations later, the stateside family still has some ties with those in the home country. While we were living in Germany, I decided it would be fun to take advantage of the relatively inexpensive airfare and surprise my husband with a trip to Norway to meet some of his Norse kin-folk.

And so it was that in March of 2004 we left our older two children with friends, threw our ten-month old son into a backpack, spent a few days in Ireland (hubby’s gift to me), then hopped on a plane and flew to the still frozen Norway. We landed in the south, near Oslo, then spent a day and a half riding trains through some of the most breathtaking landscapes we had ever seen. Our train stopped in Bodø where we were to connect with a ferry that would take us on to the ancestral village of Hamarøy and the relatives who were waiting to receive us.

We arrived in Bodø just a few minutes behind schedule. Immediately, we got in line at the train depot information desk to find out where to proceed to board the ferry. But by the time our turn came around, the man behind the desk informed us that our ferry had just departed and there wouldn’t be another until midday the following day. After making the necessary phone calls to alert welcomers that our arrival would be delayed, we were faced with the inevitable and stressful little question, Now what?

We decided to set out on foot in search of accommodations for the night—in an unfamiliar town in the Arctic Circle, carrying an infant and a few bags. Snow was falling and it was getting dark. We had no connections and no idea where we were going. I’ll admit that I was enjoying the excitement of our crazy adventure a bit, but that feeling was tempered by a pretty loud sense of vulnerability and intimidation.  I figured we would be ‘OK,’ but I had no idea what ‘OK’ would look like.

The earthquakes in Haiti and New Zealand and the recent devastation in Northern Japan have me feeling a little like that, only on a much more significant and weighty level.

On March 11, in a matter of minutes, perhaps upwards of a million unsuspecting people lost their homes, their livelihoods, their loved ones, and many—their lives. I grieve for the people of Japan. Theirs is tragedy, upheaval, and heartache of a magnitude that I can barely wrap my brain around.

But we are not immune. Life in this world simply is vulnerable. There are no guarantees that the things we take for granted will be here for us tomorrow or that we will be here tomorrow to take them for granted. My security must be found elsewhere. My investment must be placed elsewhere.

As I pray and grieve for those who have lost everything precious that this life has to offer, I am forced to soberly take stock of how much of my time, thoughts, and efforts are invested in temporary things.

At the same time, I am newly inspired to live for eternal things and transfer my misplaced hopes to the proper place—the heart of my very good and very big God.

We did find a place to stay in Bodø that night, a rather nice place. And the next few days were spent in the beautiful village of Hamarøy enjoying fine meals and interesting conversation with precious people.

When we put our trust in Christ, we will ultimately be OK—a great deal more than OK, as a matter of fact. God’s got an unimaginably glorious and fantastic eternity planned for us. In the meantime, the only appropriate thing to do is fully embrace the exciting and crazy adventure of pursuing God and offering ourselves unreservedly for his eternal kingdom in a very unstable and temporary world.

image source: blogs.nationalgeographic.com
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