Wednesday, October 10, 2007

in the quiet of the morning

My head and heart are full. And I’ve still got as many weeks to go on this continent as the ones I’ve already lived here. It will, of course, take a long time to wade through the fullness, and it will probably never be fully waded through. There’s always more to be mined from the simplest experience.

When I began planning this trip, as people shared my excitement they fairly regularly came to describe my grand plan for four months in Africa as “a trip of a lifetime.” Not knowing yet what I would encounter here, I usually didn’t correct them then. But now I’m more certain that this is not a trip of a lifetime. It’s a beginning of something that is somehow part of what I’m going to have to do because it’s what I’ve been given to do.

I have no real idea what that means or what that will require of me or what it could possibly look like. And in the deepest part of me, past the part that’s slightly nervous about the unknowns and about the challenge of convincing my community to come along with me into a new chapter of unpredictability and abnormalness, my soul celebrates and rejoices because the reality of a statement like that places me in God’s hands. Fully. Completely. Trustingly. Absolutely.

This morning I’m delaying my encounter with the rest of the world by lingering in the cocoon of my bedroom at Pam and Simon’s. I’ve pulled out a delicious book from my small-ish stack of carefully chosen travel books. I began this one months ago but, with the frenzy of preparation for traveling, didn’t get very far. After heavy blowing rain last night, the day has settled into being that good kind of drizzly, gentle rainy day, the kind that’s good when you’ve been needing some quiet, cozy time inside a cocoon.

Kathleen Norris might be described as a writer’s writer. Mostly I just mean that I love the freedom her writing somehow gives me. She dips deeply into life and then shares her journey with the rest of us. It’s a spiritual journey that doesn’t leave real life. And here are the lines from The Cloister Walk that have prompted me to stop reading for a moment:

“To make the poem of our faith, we must learn not to settle for a false certitude but to embrace ambiguity and mystery.”

…and a few sentences later…

“The hard work of writing has taught me that in matters of the heart, such as writing, or faith, there is no right or wrong way to do it, but only the way of your life.”

It’s that ambiguity and mystery that I feel like God’s been teaching me more and more about these past couple years in particular, teaching me to celebrate them, teaching me to embrace them, teaching me how wonderful it is to trust Him enough to exist comfortably in their reality.

Ghana provided the chance to begin learning how to listen to Africa. Kenya began to take me deeper into the life of this continent. Uganda has somehow felt more profound. As I try to understand my response and what the time here has awakened, the closest I can come is to say that there are stories here that I haven’t gotten to hear yet but want to because I sense that they will teach things about God that all of us need to know. In the midst of the pain and suffering and beauty and hope of the people who live here is a God who is alive and active yet mysterious and unfathomable. He’s sometimes obvious. Sometimes not. And somehow the things that are true here are true everywhere there are human beings alive and interacting with each other, but perhaps some of those things are just displayed more obviously here.

So, we will see what these things come to mean. Wherever the story goes, may God be praised near and far.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

This was beautifully written. Thank you Kami! I love you and am so proud of you.
Your sis--Erin