The Distance Between Context and Complaining: A Love Story


I love my wife. I love my kids. And I love the call the Lord has on my life to proclaim His word in the context of the local church.

Seriously, I feel like I’m getting away with something. I am one of the richest people I know, and I’m grateful for it.  Time with my wife nourishes me in ways time with no one else on this earth can. Time with my children brings to me a sweet mix of untold joy and sober reverence when I think of who they are and who I hope they become. Hours spent at my work reminds me again and again how precious and rare it is to be a man who is blessed to work at something I love.

As it happens right now, my work has called me away from my wife and kids, geographically, for a season. One of the weird struggles I didn’t anticipate is the work of navigating how to explain why I am here apart from my family, without it sounding like a full-on plea for sympathy, or worse, a complaint.

russ-only-cropped-for-rabbit-roomMy wife and kids are not with me because we’re trying to sell our house (in Olathe Kansas– great price, new furnace, awesome tree fort in the back yard… I digress), and unlike most of you, Dear Esteemed Rabbit Room Faithful, my family cannot manage two mortgages. Finding free temporary housing for one dude (many thanks, Osengas) is a different deal than finding free housing for a brood of six (plus a dog).

Anyway, when I meet someone new (which is about a dozen times a day) the standard points of introduction usually get covered: Where are you from? Are you married? Kids? Where do you live now? Where are you working now? These are unavoidable points of context, and rightly so. How can you find me on a map without this information? How can I find you?

But I’ve gotta tell you when I come to the place where I explain my family situation right now, I’ve covered a pretty impressive range of emotions to go with it. I’ve wept over it, shrugged it off, grimaced, laughed, drifted off into thoughts of those sweet people and how much I love them to the extent that I’ve half-forgotten what we were talking about.

But I’m not looking for pity. And I’m not complaining either. God knows I’m not complaining. I know Team Ramsey is in a season of transition that will eventually reach its end. I know sometime in the relatively near future we’ll all be here, our stuff set up in some house in some neighborhood with a zip code beginning with the numbers 37.

And I know that until then, I have a wife who is so on board with this move– so strong, encouraging, and eager to dive into this new community– that I can’t believe my luck. And I know many women here in this new city honestly expressing their desire to know her better– which will enrich their lives beyond their wildest imaginations! (Yes, that’s an exclamation point. Consider this a master class on where to use them.)

Still, though I am not complaining about the distance, neither am I unaffected. I was talking with a friend the other day about this– a friend who is no stranger to similar seasons of separation– and he put to words something I was so thankful to hear: “When I’m with her and my kids,” he said, “the worst parts of me are diminished and the best parts are elevated.”

Amen, friend. And thanks for that.

My wife and kids bring out the best in me, and they have a subduing effect on those parts of me I wish weren’t woven into the fabric of who I am.

The truth is that the version of me people are getting to know now is only part of the picture. It isn’t false, just incomplete like the picture above. And that is an important part of my context right now. Here’s what I really look like:


Why am I telling you this? Because this season of transition is showing me parts of the depth of my own story I wouldn’t have seen otherwise. When I explain the distance, the house for sale, the transition from one place to another and all that goes with it– when I tell you about my weaknesses and strengths and how my family lifts me up, in the end this not a complaint.

Its a love story. A true one.

Russ Ramsey is the pastor of Christ Presbyterian Church Cool Springs in Nashville, Tennessee, where he lives with his wife and four children. He grew up in the fields of Indiana and studied at Taylor University and Covenant Theological Seminary (MDiv, ThM). Russ is the author of the Retelling the Story Series (IVP, 2018) and Struck: One Christian’s Reflections on Encountering Death (IVP, 2017).


  1. Micah

    There is a part of War and Peace, where the characters (Pierre and Prince Andrey) are discussing whether one aught to live for themselves or live for others. Prince Andrey is argueing that one should live solely for themselves. Pierre is quick to point out the Andrey sacrificeses much for the sake of his family, to which Andrey replies that his family is himself, and so does not count.

    While he is completely wrong on the point of living for others (thats part of his character development) his idea of family really resonated with me when I read that passage.

  2. Word Lily

    Thanks for this. While I’ve not lived through such a season, it’s certainly not foreign and actually touches on something I’ve been thinking about this week.

    I’m not sure I entirely get the concept that one is at his/her best when with his/her family, though.

  3. Leigh McLeroy

    The pictures tell the story…but the words are lovely too. I’m sending this link to a friend whose family is in a similar circumstance…but converging in the same zip code in just a few weeks. Unfortunately, not mine. I will miss them very much, but can see that the change is a good and needed one. Thank you, and prayers for a quick sale! (Exclamation both deliberated and heartfelt.)

  4. Jaclyn

    Russ, your family is utterly beautiful. Thank you so much for sharing this. It shows us singles (those of us who God will bless with a family) what we have to look forward to.

  5. Jonathan Rogers

    Great post, Russ. Glad to be walking with you in this (hopefully brief) season of separation.

    My one complaint: Aaron R’s comment wasn’t even funny. Come on, Aaron. We’re counting on you to be the best commentator around.

  6. Aaron Roughton

    I can see that I’m going to have to create an alter-ego for my serious comments, one who is very thoughtful, handling matters delicately and in no way looking for attention for himself. I’ll continue to reach for the coveted spot of world’s greatest comment commentatorer while faithfully serving as the Rabbit Room idiot under my real name. This shouldn’t be a problem.

    Hutchmoot, however will be a problem. Have you ever seen the episode of Saved By The Bell where Zack told both Jesse and Kelly that he’d take them to the prom? No, wait. Here’s a better one. Have you ever seen Mrs. Doubtfire? Remember the scene at the restaurant where it all falls apart? Me. At Hutchmoot. Only my serious alter-ego will look exactly like Christian superstar Carman.

  7. Jill

    Russ, it’s great to see the love that you have for your family. You are blessed to have each other. cherish every moment!

  8. Lori

    Hey Russ – from a fellow 12th Souther, I am so excited you’re in Nashville! I look forward to meeting you soon and then look forward to “re-meeting” you and your family when they arrive. Those in the “37” zip code have been given a big gift!

  9. Dryad

    My Family went through the same thing–except it lasted for 8 years. I frankly am still not sure how we survived.

  10. anne

    I bet this was a great post from the above comments, but honestly I checked out after ” unlike most of you, Dear Esteemed Rabbit Room Faithful, my family cannot manage two mortgages”. I paid our one mortgage last night knowing it would put our bank account in the red.

  11. Pete Peterson



    I think you missed Russ’s sarcasm. I doubt there are many at all around here that could afford a second mortgage. I could name quite a few that are dipping into the red just like you.

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