Last night, a good several hours after dinner, Josh plunked in the doorway still in his shirt and tie and with that furrowed brow from five hours in a meeting that went longer than it should have. All the meetings go longer than they should these days. And I felt for him, and maybe felt for myself too and for the kids and for Margot who was sleeping already and was going another day without seeing her dad.
I sat for awhile in that party of pity for myself and for our family and let little arrows like darts shoot at my heart, burying me in further disgruntlements. Then as my inwardness turned into out loud mumblings, Josh said to me (and it was is if HE was saying to me) "Being here, doing this... it's a blessing. And I'm glad to be doing it."
Glad to be doing it. I remember those words... they sound like something I said long ago. Years ago, or maybe just last week. But tonight and today...how it is a blessing? I don't see any lives being changed, and sometimes I just see our own lives being cramped and pushed and pulled. But he had more words. "I think we are privileged to be called here for this task, to be able to help at this time of need, to do what needs to be done here and now." He might as well have started with, "For such a time as this..."
Of course he is right though. It's just not my default to see the uncertainty and the hard as a blessing. I have these ideas of what would make for a healthy upbringing for our kids, of a fulfilled life as an artist and a rocking marriage and a meaningful work with people overseas. Earlier today I shared this post that hit me square in the eyes, and along with it was happily rebuked by other things throughout the day, that whatever those dreams are you have for a better life, for the best life, for the Good Life, they are best laid to rest in the hands of God.
He who puts us in particular places, gives us the gift, even the blessing, of the task here and now. a task that has no promise of fulfilling visions and dreams. He has a way for us to use our embodied selves-- hands and feet and words and listening spirits, to bring his kingdom come. Therein is the blessing. We get to be part of the acts of God if we will, on a grand scale, found in the small, blessed and broken particulars. Hannah's tear filled prayers come to mind, and Hosea naming the children of his unfaithful wife, and the righteous disobedience of two Hebrew midwives who never saw the deliverance out of Egypt.
The particulars are where my hands and feet hit the ground in this place he has put us. Not my visions and dreams, but the faithful day to day. And visions die hard on this daily ground. We fight for our school and all the lives it touches. But we fight with humility, knowing that our place here is not guaranteed or even owed to us. We are sojourners, foreigners in this land that we want to serve. I saw a quote today and man did it zing.
Observation: In evangelical church culture, praying for msn'ry visas, residence permits, & other govt paperwork is common practice. [edits mine]
Wherever you land on the immigration issue, you have to find that ironic. And it made me think again how myopic and navel gazing I can be about my own displacement or feelings of fear in regards to our home (which is incidentally up for sale), our work, and the concrete dwellings we find a measure of security in. There are so many in my home country, and in my host country, who deal with uncertainty regarding their place and home every single day, and have for generations. My experience of "home" even in all it's transience and displacement inherent to overseas living, has still been a story of privilege and provision. Yet here I am lamenting, in my worst moments of unease, the bitterness of the having no place to lay my head, or the cost of having to lay my head just here and in this place.
And then there was this. A local Chinese friend called and said she was passing by on the street below... could she come up for a quick hello? It was a school night, she knew. It was bedtime, she understood. Of course we said yes. She stayed for a few minutes and it was good to see her. But my heart was scattered. Josh and I had just been having a rather defeated conversation about how to give our kids some respite with all that is going on. In so many areas it seems like we have to push hard. But we are limited for different reasons, and were feeling discouraged. Then our friend stopped by, and we knew she too was at an in-between place with no job and some question marks about her future. But after she left, she sent me a message. "When I came out of your home, Father made this conviction to me, 'Make this blessing over the kids'... He loves them." She left a generous gift to take the kids somewhere fun.
How did she know we needed that word? Inside I shrunk with a bit of shame; wasn't it our job to be blessing her? Here I was, floundering in my way, uncertain of my calling, being lifted up by the hands of someone I had come to serve.
I felt both incredibly loved and smote to my core.
It is a blessing to be here.
Now go, blessed as you are, and be a blessing.