I love that at 38 years old I am still experiencing and doing things in my life that are ‘firsts’. I am thankful that my life isn’t stagnant. Perhaps that was the way it was always designed to be. Seven days ago today I left for another first. It was the first time I left my babies for more than two nights and my first time being away and out of the UK. Man it felt weird. I was excited, I was nervous and I was up for the adventure. I was visiting friends who have known me since I was a child. Friends who have watched me handle lots of other firsts. They baptised me, they prayed for me, they championed me. They were the people I met off the plane on this ‘first’ adventure. I think God loves doing this in our lives. Weaving friendships and people into the rich tapestry of life, so it all has purpose and a rhythm of grace for years of deep friendship.Over these four days my five senses were assaulted. The people, the culture, the smells, the food, the slow rhythm of life that sometimes I gasp for in our own fast paced society. The prayer call at 5.30am that I loved to waken me and I remind me of who I belong to.
We told stories over many tagines. Stories that inspired and challenged. Stories that brought perspective. Stories from them that are so parallel to our world here. It felt more than ever that even though we are thousands of miles away that we are indeed in this together.
We cried (well actually I cried – standardly they made of fun of me) as we recalled and retold stories of old. How we talked about their house growing up was always filled with the broken, the homeless and the vulnerable. Especially on Christmas day! That house is now our home. How they have passed that mantle on to us without even knowing. Their lives and their journeys involve sheer determination and stubbornness. We laughed as we realised that mantle too is passed to us.
This couple in their sixties fast became my heroes. Four days of talking, eating and sleep in-between. They are running the race, they are running the race with their children, choosing to stand shoulder to shoulder with the ones they raised. The ones they poured into, accepted and encouraged their dreams and allowed to run free and be who they are. They inspired me to stand shoulder with my kids, to believe in them and to listen to their calling. To always be prepared to go and not hold on to our possessions tightly.
This trip, albeit four days, brought perspective to me quickly. How our middle class ways can come a hindrance into really valuing what matters. How this culture values families and their kids – in contrast to our middle class ways where we put our kids to bed at 7pm so that we can have our own time. They live opposite to that and see the value of family and living together in community. I was inspired in every conversation, every walk, every meal, and every visit. How kissing became a normal greeting and how I wanted to keep that as part of my every hello.
There was so much more. So much that I treasure. How we hold tight to our theology, our rightness and our way. Then we get to sit with people and hear their stories and of course everything changes, it has to, it’s about people right?
On my flight before I landed as it flew over the desert, I said I simple prayer to the great I Am and that was ‘permission granted to do all that You need to do’ and that was the best prayer I could have prayed. Suddenly on my return changing the bedroom furniture didn’t seem important anymore and I am not sure it ever will.