I went back into work today and saw my desk calendar was still on December 3, 2009. It was the last day I was at my desk before the trips to Denver began. I came back for a two week period for Christmas, and then went off again. I came back again for another two week break, and I have been gone ever since. I have effectively been gone since early December, which makes this the longest stretch I have ever been away from Binghamton since I had summer breaks in college. What a world of difference it was to come back on Saturday.
I did not intentionally drive through the run down part of town when I came home from the airport. It was one of many familiar routes I could have chosen. This one avoided the highway. But it also caused me to see the great contrast between the growing metropolis in Denver and the dying town in Binghamton. It was downright depressing. I mourned as I drove through, although I didn't know why I was feeling it at the time. I had intended to drive straight to my friends' place to attend the planned festivities. Instead, I drove straight home. I wasn't able to be around people in that moment.
For the rest of the evening and for most of Sunday, I stayed in that state of mourning. I had invitations to see good friends, but I wasn't ready yet. I had shut down such a significant part of myself while I was away that the sudden realization of what I had lost was overwhelming. I am still trying to process that now.
Working the hours I did was not a problem. I found that my experience working long hours between my job and church well prepared me for going the distance in Colorado. However, what I was not prepared for was being cut off from I live for. The others guys I worked with found what they have always been (superficially) looking for in alcohol, strip clubs, and fancy restaurants. For them, it was an upgrade in life, even though they had to pay for it with uncommonly long hours. However, I don't live for those things. I live for community, for building each other up, and for doing the work of God.
Although I was able to do many of those things, being away from church and people who would normally invest in me was much harder than I had anticipated. I had to be "on" almost all the time. I led when there was no one else to lead the way. I gave much more than I received. And I gave constantly. I'm grateful that I was able to minister and serve others, especially unexpectedly through my job, but I have a limit to how long I can be firm and yet stay soft. In the end, I poured hot wax over my wounds. I hardened my heart to my own needs and remained soft to the needs of others. When I drove through those run down streets of Binghamton, I couldn't convince myself to see my friends and be real with them. Festivities are not a time to ask for healing tears.
And so I drove through those dying streets of a dying town that I had trouble recognizing. A town I have been so much a part of for so long, but now wonder what my place, if any, is in it. I know it like the back of my hand but now I see it with new eyes. Eyes that cause to me to ask, shall I stay or shall I go?