I left a part of my heart in the blood-red Ethiopian soil. I don’t know if I’ll ever reclaim it. These months back feel like a skin I need to shed, and I’m wriggling, tensing muscles and prying myself loose.
I’ve said before I’m not the same girl I was when I boarded that plane. But the truth is that we are never the same day-to-day. If life were time lapsed, each day would show the indents and soul creases accrued when we brush up against a lifetime. Each day adding another layer to our story. And some days remove layers, scrape them clean off like a dirty film.
Africa did both.
Before and afters litter the years of my life. Sometimes they are an improvement, often they are not.
I have a pair of walking clogs I wore when we weaved our way down the path to the huts. They sit in the entry way, they still have African soil grooved into their soles. And I do too.
I am restless and contented and I’m making my peace with this tension. How can a soul be stirred up and kindled white-hot for the things of God and then asked to simmer and stay and dwell in suburban obedience?
I dreamed of being a world changer when I was young enough to think that meant suitcases and passports and no ties to keep me from living radically. But I’m older now, wiser maybe. I see world changing doesn’t begin with a stamp in a passport or selling all your possessions.
It starts with knowing God. It starts with asking what He wants and sometimes that means all of those things but often, I’m finding that obedience is just as hard when the grand adventure that awaits you is paying bills and loving your neighbor and shopping for groceries with a gaggle of children in tow. Sometimes it’s purging the soul of excess.
Sometimes it’s so hard to see God in the ordinary rhythms of our lives and it takes a mighty blow to remember we are on holy ground. Walking each day in the grace and glory of a life redeemed and a call to make it known among nations and neighborhoods, near and far.
I find I struggle most when I am swept along with the current of a culture that can’t ever fill those soul holes.
We are rampant with desire for all the wrong things. And I think back to the patches of sunlight breaking through the mango trees littering the ground with dappled light and I remember sitting on the slimmest wooden bench hoping to God my weight wouldn’t snap it in two. These are the things I thought about in that hut in Ethiopia as I sat with my sponsored daughter. I was filled with joy and remorse.
I thought about the weight of my soul and my body lumbering down the narrow path, reeds and stalks snapping against my bare arms because the path wide enough for two Africans to walk side by side barely accommodated me. How far I’ve wandered in the filling of my life.
Traveling to the third world as an overweight American changed me in ways I’ve yet to reckon with.
I carry my excess, my sin, on my frame, visible for every emaciated and waif-like child, every villager who hasn’t got enough. But then we all do, don’t we? Some just hide it better. Who of those people could see our sprawling homes or our overstuffed closets, our shopping carts overfilled and our appetites for more. Only mine was visible because it rolls off my body and bulges at the seams.
I am ashamed at the way we represent the gospel that sets us free. I am ashamed of the bondage I bring with me.
I know a grace that covers the brokenness. Oh how I know this. But I want to believe the gospel. I want to believe he binds and makes new. I want to see the new creation fully alive.
I flew home with the promises of God whispered in my ear. You are free, child. You are filled. I believe them.
I step tentative toes on the scale and see barely the tiniest dip. It doesn’t match my restraint. But I’m not on the quest for an after that dons skinny jeans or poses with fat pants that could house 3 of me.
I am in search of an after that means my gospel is truth. Only Christ in me, the hope of glory. Nothing else fills. And I know the sum of my parts and my soul are not measured in numbers but obedience. I find my appetites are quelled. My soul doesn’t salivate for more, only my spirit seems unquenchable.
I have tasted God.