I am afraid most of the time.
All the days, really.
Israel has never been more relatable.
Distrusting, falling into fear
Every other minute,
Because imminent danger always seems stronger
Than past salvation.
I cling to this hope:
“During those many days
The people of Israel groaned
And cried for help.
Their cry for rescue
Came up to God.
And God heard their groaning.
And God remembered his covenant.
And God saw the people of Israel.
And God knew.”
Weakest of nations,
The least of these is Israel.
When they felt alone, abandoned,
He knew and he never really left.
He knew and he stretched out his hand,
And through every obstacle,
Despite all their fears,
He made a way.
There is rhythm
Even here, in the click-clack of the keyboard
As I compose another test
In a never-ending line of assessments.
What is this definition
Label the part of speech.
Categorize and explain,
Until at least one small piece of your world
Is neatly quantified and set aside.
Some of the same things.
Mostly the same things.
We are a forgetful people
Circling round and round to remind ourselves
Of what we knew, once.
The heart of my discontent:
Day to day life
Goes by unnoticed.
It needs a filter,
A change in perspective.
Some mask to trick me into seeing
Currently returning from a trip to New York City visiting my friend Emily. The night before I left, I was tired and not terribly enthused about departing from home, but I had purchased bus tickets when my spirits and energy levels were high, so I was going regardless of my current feelings on the matter.
I stepped off the bus into a sea of humidity and grey rain clouds, and was greeted by Emily’s smiling face. My initial hesitations over the trip vanished as we embraced and began making plans for the rest of the day. We began by walking through the gardens of the High Line. The sun came out and a breeze whipped up, clearing out the humidity and the clouds. And then began the dominating activity of the next three days: exploring and imagining myself living an everyday life in each new spot.
I chose the bench on the High Line walk where I would take my journal to write in as I looked over the water. I made a list of the restaurants in Chelsea Market which I would systematically work through until I had tasted all the flavors it had to offer. I saw the bookstores I would frequent and the farmers market from which I would walk home with wildflowers and fresh vegetables. I picked the apartment rooftop where I would host lively dinner parties, and the fire escape where I would sit in the mornings with my coffee. I eyed Emily’s apartment and determined where I could make space for my KitchenAid mixer, and made plans for how I would store my Christmas decorations. My fantastical New York self would fit right in here; I was sure of it.
Best of all, this life had no complications. Faceless friends would populate it, but as I didn’t know who they were, there were no worries about finding them and no danger of their leaving afterward. I had all kinds of time in this picture– never a dull moment but never one too busy either. My bank account obviously would stretch to accommodate all the things I wanted to do and try. In this life I was always happy and carefree.
I’ve gone through this exercise often enough to see the escapist tendency that lies behind it. I know my ideal picture is truly a fantasy–expanded and overblown to the point where it is entirely unrealistic and unattainable.
Riding back to D.C. forces me to remember that my fantasy has no real bearing on the reality of my day-to-day. I’m attempting to avoid thinking about the slow drains in the bathroom, or the headlight out in my car, or the loneliness I felt last week. At least, I’m trying not to focus solely on them, these reminders of a less-than-perfect life. There are other glad things to return to as well: my own bed, my overflowing bookshelves, my deck with its herbs (hopefully) surviving the rain, my church with my Scottish pastor, and my very real friends who have faces and who love me in my weaknesses. The Good, Very Good, and the Less Than Ideal are all joined together into a real and concrete state of blessedness.
When I was five, it was easy to give You the reigns.
I was small and weak,
And I held so little in my power,
It seemed such a simple request to satisfy.
I gained Eternity for a pittance.
But I began to grow up
And Responsibility and Privilege
Well, they grew with me.
I learned to love Independence
And Self-Sufficiency was my friend.
Suddenly control mattered more than faith
And my childhood offering became distasteful
In the face of grown-up fears and worries.
Giving You what You wanted
Now seems like too much.
This stumbling began at five years old:
I never had even the smallest thing to give,
You want Everything and yet Nothing.
You would have me let go of what was never mine,
That your Love might fill my empty hands.
“I have held many things in my hands, and I have lost them all; but whatever I have placed in God’s hands, that I still possess.”
Dew-watered grass breathing into the air.
Exhaust fumes from a truck labeled Rocket Rooter.
Fruit Loops in a plastic bag,
Sneaky chocolate bar.
Wind filled with leaves and grass.
Sweat. So much sweat.
Soccer cleats in sports bags falling from lockers.
Felt-tip pen: lime green.
Crumpled homework pages.
Sigh of relief.
They didn’t teach me
How best to express an ache
For people I don’t know,
Or how to help heal a wound
That never closes.
They didn’t teach me
Five steps to fix an evil next door
And a continent away.
But they did teach me how to love
They taught me to stand up
They taught me to be compassionate
Even when I’m afraid.
They taught me grace, grace, grace.
They taught me that no one is perfect
They taught me to listen, carefully.
They taught me “I’m sorry”
And they taught me apologies paired with action.
They taught me to paint with all the colors
Because no one ever made art
Just staring at white paper.
They taught me “all men are created equal”
And Jesus loves me, so He must love you
Just as much.
They taught me so many things
But here I am, still learning.