Thursday, 8 December 2011
The Rush and the Pause; Or, Leaving for Africa in Nine Days
So many details
slip and scatter through the recesses of my head
rebounding later, dammit I forgot again,
going to the computer, forgetting why once I sit down.
The current is carrying me downriver, and when I try to get a grip it’s all water everywhere, details and checklists slipping through my grasping fists and did I forget to breathe again? Before sleep when the thoughts want to drown me I gulp oxygen to calm nerves, dismiss panicked thoughts, new details, things I’ve forgotten, always forgetting. The adrenaline shoots when I think just nine days and I will be leaving for Africa, so I try not to think. I have these projects and this family and these details and they’re quite enough, they’re more than enough, and going under is a real possibility. I’ve seen it. The water sometimes starts to flood my own mouth.
But I see the pauses before they come.
Those swirling eddies in the river call out with their silence.
I’m stuck in the shallow current, the rush
of water carrying me past in a blur
So I start to fight.
I resist, clawing and pulling and muscling my way over to spots I see swirling, I know it’s deeper there, steady. It’s the pull of stillness that cannot drown you, the promise of pause that can put the fire right back into your heart, and you realize you’re fighting for your life, that this matters, this time, this nurture, and being your own parent might just be the hardest job. Tough and tender, pushing and pausing, both parent and child, together and separate.
Finally I reach it, and though the current still rushes,
my focus sharpens and finally
I see past myself.
I see the women I’ll meet,
I see them, full of expectation yet expecting nothing, pregnant at 14 or 17 or 25, and me praying with them about being a mother,
leading them in meditations on raising their children against odds,
but what do I know?
They are the ones who can teach me about being parent and child, together and separate,
they will show me what to make of a life,
beautiful and bold on this earth
that must have a reason.
I’m here and they’re here and there must be a reason.
I feel the poorest in spirit already, and I know
I’m going to be deep in the eddy, looking my own poverty in the face.
Oh Africa, I know you and I don’t — but one certainty calls to me to you like a siren: You will wreck me all over again. You will tear me down and get me all the way out of the river, out of my own little life, zoom way, way out to see and know and taste realities I could never prepare for. Because of you, God will destroy me. I will yet trust Him, because I know it’s the only way to freedom. If I can dive into another kind of poverty, I will taste my own and I can start again.
Then, I will yearn for a purpose larger and fuller. I can return to my tiny and beautiful life with a calling that doesn’t discard the swirling details, but permeates them.
My heart is ready and it’s not. But in nine days, I’ll go anyway.
May God be glorified.