Sunday, January 29, 2017

there i am free



It's difficult to put this week into words. Though I've wanted to. Every evening I have opened my computer, but my fingers lay still against the keys. The words are stuck somewhere between my throat and my heart. Or somewhere deeper still, where they are the unformed substance that makes blood flow through veins, where they blow on the delicate wings of butterflies in bellies.

Now, I write from the room I've been staying in this week. Across the hall, a college student. Downstairs, a family with two young children, one of whom knows my name and keeps asking how long I'll stay. Outside, about a mile to the south, the university I attended more than a decade ago, and further on, miles of farms and trees and open land. The bed in this room has borrowed sheets and an unzipped green nylon sleeping bag for a comforter, which keeps me warm enough. I have a key to the house, and a living room and kitchen at my disposal at the big house next door, which houses international students. No car, and a half mile walk to a grocery store if I need anything.

After our first day, I watched out the window as one of our trainers -- a woman my age -- drove away. Done with work, headed home to her husband and her normal evening routine. I started crying because I wanted my car and my apartment and my normal evening routine. I did not want the dinner of chicken thighs and peas and salad that had been prepared for me to eat with the international college students. I did not want to feel so lost and limited to this room and the company of the students in the big house.

The next morning, I walked over to the big house at 7am. Inside, a young man was playing piano loudly (I had been hoping for some quiet), and I drank Folger's coffee and ate a banana. It is moments like these that I am not too sure what I've gotten myself into.

We drove twenty minutes in an old van with the interior falling apart to a small office building to start our second day of training. As Christians do, we started with worship. I held a second cup of coffee in one hand and closed my eyes and opened my heart. Where you are, there I am free, we sang. Free -- I wanted that. I paid more attention.

That's what I needed, that freedom that comes wherever I am. Or, wherever Jesus is. At a house in the middle of farmland with no car and a bed covered in a green nylon sleeping bag. In Nairobi, where it will take me some time to learn how to get around and who my friends will be. At my sisters', where I will be tomorrow when this training ends, and where kids are waiting for me to play Star Wars with them. In Pasadena, where my car and apartment are waiting for me to establish normal evening routines again (though who knows...).

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