I thought I had it down, this stepping out of a place of security and learning to trust God. But apparently it’s not a lesson you pass once and then get to move onto the next subject. For me it’s a lesson to learn over and over. This was the discovery I made this week, when I went to renew my Passport.
When I opened the gold embossed cover, I discovered my 12-year-younger self, unlined forehead sweaty from the summer heat, eyes squinting anxiously at the camera. The photo was taken two weeks before I was scheduled to leave for East Africa with Ruth, the 2-year-old abandoned child who my husband and I hoped to adopt from a Ugandan orphanage.
I was terrified of traveling alone and didn’t want to go, but I knew that if I didn’t Ruth would likely spend the rest of her life in an orphanage. For Ruth I packed my bags and boarded a plane to the other side of the world, unsure of the outcome.
Growing up in rural churches, I never celebrated Lent. I’m not sure I even knew what it was before going off to college. Occasionally a pastor held a special service on Good Friday – the day Christ died. But that was it before donning our Easter finest to celebrate his resurrection on Easter morning. It always seemed to fly by too fast. So when a friend recently challenged me to pray for a specific need over the 40 days of Lent, I dug deeper to find out its history.
On the swearing in of a new president, how should we pray? When I was growing up on an Oregon farm, my hippie mom was one of the only parents I knew at our rural church who’d voted for Jimmy Carter instead of Ronald Reagan. That could have created a split, but we continued sitting in the same pews and singing the same songs as before the divisive 1980 election. Mom didn’t sniff out which businesses had supported which candidate or pull us out of our church-supported school. She got up the same as every other morning, pulled on her rubber boots and went about the work that needed to be done, feeding our sheep and gathering the morning eggs.
If your heart has not been pulverized by sorrow, disappointment and injustice by the time you reach midlife, you are either sorely disconnected or extremely lucky. During the first week of this new year, I find myself wanting to lay my head down and weep at the hardships that encompass from within and without. I have much to be thankful for – a safe home, the love of my family and a few close friends, opportunities to pursue meaningful work. But along the way, the losses and regrets and awareness of my own limitations have snowballed to such a degree that the utter weight and size of my sadness threatens to bury me.
I had been warned. Loading heavy sheets of plywood and lengthy strips of siding and a storm door into the back of my minivan at a lumber yard tent sale, I had been warned not to tie the tailgate of my van open to fit it all inside. “Once you get going, you’ll create a vacuum,” the man who’d sold it to me warned. “It will suck exhaust into your vehicle.” Happy with the deals I’d scored, I paused for only a moment, considering the danger.