One of the hardest things about being here is the leaving that happens. Expats are always coming and going and despite what they say, you never really know when someone will just pack it up and decide that this place for them, is no longer home.
It messes with you a bit. It raises the question of 'Do I still feel at home?' 'Is my time here up?' and then the host of practical questions that go with that. 'Is this best for my kids?' and 'What about my family back in the states?' and 'What about my career? and my (lacking) retirement account?' and all the second guessing and re-questioning your 'call' here happens. It's exhausting. It makes the loss greater because now your friend is gone and you're left with the snow globe of your life shaken again.
I read yesterday that Tim Keller says your 'call' is a combination of your: Affinity, Ability and Opportunity. It's similar to one of my favorite Buechner quotes,
"The place God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the world's deep hunger meet."
Deep gladness. That is what I felt waking up 6 years ago here. An unexplainable affinity. An opportunity. Ability? That's the interesting part. I had some obvious abilities. Doctoring. Teaching. But what I didn't know then was that I lacked some pretty important ones.
Did I have the ability to totally and completely rely on Jesus for everything? Did I have the ability to trust Him when the hot dry season felt too hot and family felt too far and the funds were low? When loneliness hit? When my abilities didn't feel used? Did I have the understanding of what 'deep gladness' really is? That it's not the same thing as happiness? That it's not things making sense perfectly? That it's not a neatly packaged life with a bow?
It has taken me a while and some dark seasons to learn that my most important ability is to be teachable not a teacher and to allow myself to be healed not to be the healer.
Deep gladness is usually not neat and often doesn't make any sense and neither does the world's deep hunger. That is where the beauty comes in. Deep meets deep. Only with God can we hold both. Can we find deep gladness in the face of a hungering world. Deep gladness instead of being swallowed by it. Deep gladness by entering in to it even if we can't fix it.
A few months ago someone sent me a puzzle. I used to hate puzzles. I assumed they were boring because I couldn't imagine sitting still for long periods of time looking at so many small pieces that look almost the same and 'wasting my time' trying to figure out how they go together. But when I got the package, I decided to give it a try and to my surprise I loved it. I found it completely satisfying and obsessively not boring. I sat for hours at its disposal until it came together into a finished picture.
In a world where so many things don't fit together, a puzzle eventually does. A piece that alone makes absolutely no sense, has a place in the big picture. But you do need to know what the big picture is. Imagine how hard it would be to do a puzzle if you didn't know what it was supposed to look like in the end?
Deep gladness is like this. It's enjoying the process itself. Appreciating the pieces. Attending to the details on their edges and the shade of their blue. It's going back and forth between the individual and whole. It's letting go when you are stuck on a section and doing another part. It's taking a complete break and coming back with fresh eyes when you are able to see more clearly. After a while it becomes a zen thing. Mediation and intuition. You become one with it, seeing a piece and feeling where about it belongs.
This is like our process of finding and growing in God in a world that is deeply hungry. Deep gladness I've found, deepens. I had an affinity for East Africa, and I've been given the opportunity. My abilities now include my dependency. Instead of referencing my happiness as a gauge for my continued calling, I'm allowing this place, this process, this shared hungering, to deepen my gladness.
What a joy!