Sep 21 2012

Don’t Drag Your Buffalo

We made the move from St. Louis to Atlanta so fast.   We made the decision to come to Candler in May, and eight weeks later we were on I-24 with our entire lives packed into strategically-placed cardboard boxes.   We hardly thought about how much our lives were going to change.   Both of us were changing paths, and one of us was changing careers completely.   We were now going to be living on one income instead of two.   We had no friends here.    For the first time, we had no family remotely close to us.   We underestimated the struggle of living by two completely different schedules.   We just didn’t think about all the things we were giving up, until our car died.   That car was a part of our lives.   Our lives in St. Louis depended on us being able to go our separate ways.  If we needed to do two things at once, we could.  It was my car since high school.   It just always existed in our eyes.

The first leg of the move to Atlanta was ridiculous, even funny.   Two hours into the trip, the AC went out in one of the cars.   The choice was between driving my dad’s F-150 through the mountains (which was being fully realized with a U-Haul trailer hitched to the back), or driving a car without AC in the midst of intense July heat.   Needless to say, we decided to stop in the middle of Tennessee and stay the night.   We got up the next morning thinking we were going to start up the car and move to Atlanta, and it just didn’t happen.  The car did not start.  We finagled it in every way.  It wasn’t a battery problem, it wasn’t an electrical problem—it was a legitimate issue.   It was clear that it wasn’t going anywhere, and it sounded awful.   We called a tow truck.   Ryan sat at a mechanic’s shop in the middle of Tennessee for 4 hours.  My mom and I killed time in Target picking up those random items that go missing when you decide to pack up your life and move it somewhere new.   They took the car apart, and put it back together.   It still wouldn’t start.  We waited, and waited, and waited.  We tried really hard to save it.  We didn’t want to let it go.  They finally broke down and said it was hopeless.   The decision was between putting a new engine in it or burying it right then and there.  It was like what happens on the Oregon Trail.  When your buffalo drowns, you don’t drag it the rest of the way.  You just leave it there.  One thing was clear: our buffalo had drowned.

We took a hard look at the situation, and decided to bury our car in Murfreesboro, Tennessee.   RIP, Dodge Stratus.   When Ryan made the call to tell me about the car, I broke down in the middle of Target.   I was that girl you saw losing it in the Housewares Department.   At that point, it hit me.   I realized we were giving up much more than we had originally thought; we had taken things for granted.   After we buried our car, we went on with the move to Atlanta.   It seemed odd leaving what was such a valuable part of our lives behind in a random town.   We had seriously lost something we had taken for granted, and it clued us in to what was actually going on in our lives.

I tell this story to remind us that something will be lost along the way.  Deep friendships are not instantaneous.   Family interactions are left only to phone calls.   A church home is not easily replaced.   Changing paths sometimes means living on less.   And you don’t become good at being a one car family quickly.   What Ryan and I have learned as a result might be one of the most grace-filled lessons of our lives.   It has been a lesson in living a life that involves sacrifice, and as a result, sometimes need.   We’ve learned that we do not live lives apart from community.   We needed friendships and a church family.   But we had to be realistic about our material needs, too.   We needed scholarships, loans, and support to afford seminary and a move across several states.   We had to humble ourselves enough to accept the generosity of others.   But we also had to be observant and responsive to abundances that would arise in our own lives, and we had to learn to practice generosity to those around us.

The result of dramatic changes in our lives in order to make it to this new place has been a rewarding experience.   It was definitely worth losing a car, amongst other things.   We have been blessed here in so many ways.   Though friendships were not immediate, we have found those with whom we feel deeply connected.   Though we are away from our families, our appreciation for our time with them has increased rapidly.   Though we left a loving church family, we have been able to be a lasting part of a brand new church in a totally different setting.   We were thrown into so many changes that we didn’t quite expect, but we were sustained and supported, and we have learned great things.   Our sacrifice has been richly rewarded, and we are so thankful.

 - Ashley Kirk

 Ashley is a second year MDiv student from St. Louis, MO.