Life in Community

work • simplicity • education
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Life in Community

Can You Get Excited About a Cardboard Box?

May 17, 2017 by

Olivia and I went on a business-related road trip at the end of last month, something to do with her work as a sales account manager. My job was driving, setting up equipment, and getting really excited about furniture. I can get excited about furniture. I can probably get excited about cardboard boxes if I really try. What made this trip special, though, was having three days together.

Every time Olivia and I find ourselves alone in a car together, we discover a huge amount of things to talk about. As we drove the two hundred or so miles north, negotiating road construction on the A21 and heavy traffic on the M25, we talked almost nonstop – with occasional interruptions from the ridiculous Australian voice on our GPS.

We discussed each of our four sons: how they were doing, what areas of their education to focus on, what new boundaries to explore. We talked over plans for the summer and tried to come up with a bucket list of things to do. We talked about our jobs, about the political situation, world events, about mission and discipleship. We remembered difficult and funny things over the past thirteen years of marriage and wondered how much we have changed.

Ian Barth at his desk

I remembered our trip a week after returning home, when I had a hilarious phone conversation with a millennial colleague who works in the United States. It was one of those occasions where you find yourself being addressed by someone half your age in tones of extreme patience; very like the tone a parent might use in reasoning with a small child, or a nurse with an elderly patient. I’ve been laughing to myself about that conversation for the last several days as it made me think about what I was like when I was younger.

Olivia and I celebrated our wedding anniversary last week. Of course we looked at our photo albums and remembered falling in love, and thought about how glorious it was to be young and beautiful; but every so often I think about what we were like in those early days of marriage and cringe. In the middle of an experience of personal fulfilment, love, youth, and joy in life, I was completely unable to comprehend how anyone else could feel differently. Everyone else seemed to be half-dead, stupid, uninspired, in spite of all my best efforts to change them. In short, I was a total a-hole.

Most of my brothers in the faith here at Darvell will tell you that nothing has changed there, and that is something to consider. I’d like to think, though, that in our walk the good Lord has a plan for where we need to go and how we need to get there. I’ve always loved the picture of the building site written about by the early Christian writer Hermas. Each of the round stones needs to be chiseled square before they can fit into the building; in order to be of use each stone has to lose part after part of itself from every side. It is an excellent description of discipleship: very necessary, but it hurts like billy-o and it doesn’t seem to end. At least I haven’t reached the point where I can stop being chiseled.

We headed home from our business trip on an early Saturday evening, fairly heavy traffic but moving along just fine. At some point we finished up with all the urgent matters to discuss and listened together to the sounds of the road, noticing trees and fields awash with sunlight, cowslips blooming on the verge. We drove past several rest stops until we found one that had a McDonalds, then sat together at an unwiped table in the middle of a crowd of hundreds of bustling people. Diet Coke and Creme Egg McFlurries. Grinning. Couple of honeymooners.


About the author


Ian Barth

Ian lives at the Darvell community in East Sussex, UK with his wife Olivia and their four boys.

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