Monday, May 18, 2015

A Good Day

The May grass is blooming; hazy pink covers the hills surrounding Ukarumpa, and I watch from my window as a family wades through the pollen, a mother herding her children through rose and green. Our little dog stares at me, his eyes rolling upwards in hopes of dinner, and the ticking of the clock is deafening.

My housemates are gone.

They left the other day for the village, a flurry of granola and skirts and printing lesson plans and weighing and reweighing their bags. “I woke up that morning in a panic,” I later told one of my friends, “because it was village day   ...except, this time, I wasn’t going.”

There never was a question of my going, really. And of course, I knew it was for the best. I couldn’t have even handled the meetings to prepare for the trip, much less the arduous travel, the intense schedule, the physical toll. If I had plowed through, it would have meant months of setback at best.

I knew all that.

My chronic fatigue has been a constant companion for so long now that those choices are becoming as automatic as bleaching the vegetables. After my second major crash last year when I attempted two village trips over three months, the slow improvement of the last six months has been due, in part, to my pulling back drastically from all language and village work and instead, on those days when my bones are too heavy to move and my brain stops working, I put myself to bed and wait.

Waiting... But not just waiting.

Whenever I’ve waited before, it was with one foot in the future. Wait in the doctor’s office? Read a book. Wait for a plane? Study the itinerary. Wait for the rice to boil? Finish the rest of the meal, write an email, play with the dog, plan tomorrow’s schedule. I’m efficient, a multi-tasker, productive. There was always an end point to the wait, and so in the meantime, I had stuff I could do. Waiting time doesn’t need to be wasted time; that was my mantra.

Waiting? Sure. I was good at waiting.

Not this kind of waiting.

Even the most deathly ill saints in my biography books would spend hours upon hours on their sickbed, praying, dreaming deep thoughts about sunbeams and dust mites and seeing visions in cobwebs. They wrote books and quipped wise words to their followers. Their waiting sounds beautiful, sanctifying, holy.

My waiting is nothing but ugly. It’s hard to be holy when my body and brain crashes so hard that making coherent sentences about the food in front of me exceeds my strength, much less beautiful intercessory prayers to the Maker of the Universe, and so instead I stare at the embroidery on my pillows in frustration. Why would you send me here, raise up hundreds of people to give and pray, take me from my family, give me skills and passion and dreams...and then...I can’t even pray? Fine, you’re sovereign, but at least let me pray and be useful!

And then one day in September last year, I heard it: “I never asked you to be useful.”

I thought I had known it. I’d prayed it so often, tried to practice it in my life. Productivity was not tied to self-worth; what I did wasn’t as important as who I was, who He is. My identity was in Christ. I echoed it over and over to myself. But, never before had my ability to be useful been so entirely stripped away, and suddenly my future was nebulous because my body was a traitor, and all I was really sure of was right now.

The clock ticks. Now. Now. Now. Now.

Abiding only happens in the present.

This moment. Now. This choice. Now. Will you? Now.  And now. And now. And now.

And so my daily morning prayer slowly developed into, “Lord, this day belongs to you. Help me to do the things you want me to do, and not to do the things you don’t want me to, and let me be satisfied in it.” Because, through the hardest season, when I’d hear my housemates planning the next trip to the places I had always dreamed of going or I’d reject another opportunity to teach or my body would hurt so badly I couldn’t think, I learned that if, when the day drew to a close, I chose to proclaim the truth—Lord, you are good, then it was indeed a good day.

Things are better now (I couldn’t have written this blog post if they weren’t; you don’t hear from me on here when things are bad...). When I stick to my rules like a jailer, then sometimes I can even work a full day, and I have indeed been blessed with many opportunities to continue to live Christ here in Papua New Guinea, and even work in translation and literacy (I look forward to sharing with you). I am optimistic about returning to full health, and maybe even village work is in my future. But, that is indeed in the future.

Right now, as I type, shadows are growing long and the sun is sliding over the edge of the mountains, setting the red May grass afire, torching the clouds, until I want to cup it in my hand and hold the heat to my cheek.

It has been a good day.