We went out on bikes to visit our sick friend, after the rain, as the sun sunk. The last of the anvil clouds were mountained in the east, beaming back the last light of day. I told Sam it was a beautiful afternoon.
We are a sight when we ride. We sport sunglasses and our own bikes. You don’t see that too often, a man and his wife on their own bike, riding together. Most people have only enough money for one set of wheels, so they’ll double up, him on the seat and her in front or behind, always sideways. Sam and I ride fast when the road is flat enough, maybe because it’s better exercise or maybe because it’s easier than feeling ashamed of being so different. I ride, awkwardly, tugging my skirt to keep my knees covered, dodging potholes.
Sometime today I had forgotten that I live out past the pavement with neighbors who wear a different color skin. It was good to be out, to remember, to see and hear and feel this place in which I live.
I had been busy, of course. I had made yogurt. I had heated water, drawn from the tap outside, for tea and for washing dishes. I measured beans and rice and money so that everyone at our house and the translation office worked on full stomachs. I left an embarrassing number of dishes for the two men we hire to help at home. I had baked cookies for Sam. I had sat inside, pecking out emails and plans and spelling corrections in the draft.
And this is the tension: that my body dwells here but I do not quite—at all—fit. I do things that other women my age don’t. I work inside. I read. I bring a pen to church. I bake chocolate chip cookies. I ride my own bicycle. It’s just as true that I don’t do things that women my age do. I don’t own a field and read the skies and sow seeds. I do not set my pot to boil on a triangle of three rocks. I don’t care for babies I bore young. I don’t have my sisters next door. I don’t go to the well to hear and tell news. I don’t go hungry this time of year.
A glance through a scrolling screen creates the same tension, as it presents friends moving through our young adult life. I do not attend women’s Bible study because there isn’t one. I don’t go out for coffee because there is no coffee shop. I do not host in my home because hosting is only ever done outside. I do not go to work. I pray for the church offering in a third language, always with my heart in my throat. I kill cockroaches that make me shudder. I make a home for one good man.
Perhaps I do not quite fit anywhere.
I don’t tell these things to wear a badge; I am not very brave. If you could see me here, you’d know how many days I wake up afraid. I don’t tell these things to whine either. My life is not harder than the next, only different. Some things, like memories and sunsets and lives, shouldn’t be compared.
I think all I’m saying is that this is the daily tension I’m living into—an unfulfilled longing for a good thing. Full participation in the place I live or the place I left or maybe both. Because participation means knowing and being known, seeing and being seen.
And we can say all we want to about how unfulfilled longings point us to our unending life with a Good Shepherd, and it’s all, all of it, true. But I’m beginning to see, or only hope, that Jesus does not only mean this season for a lesson. It’s purpose isn’t only to remind me that He will restore all things. This rather awkward space of living foreign in all my circles is created by Him for Him to fill. Not only later, but now. I have looked around the four walls of my house and my day, surprised to discover that this is where He meets me. Few have seen the inside of my space, but it is precisely here, hidden, that He sees me. Not one of my unseen moments is lost to Him.
So, as an ancient saint said, I press on to know Him. In a place that highlights my economic wealth and my poverty of soul. Among friends faraway who hear or see pixelated versions of difficulties that sound exotic but are really—only—my gritty, sweaty, real life. In a season where I live hidden while my label puts me on display. I press on to know Him because He knows, and He is here, and there is no space in which He cannot be found.
We sat with that sick woman, prayed for her, and turned home, the light lowering still. At home, the guard greeted us with the afternoon greeting—“Is the sun setting well upon you?”
Yes, it was.
And this is the relief at the end of each day, when the heat breaks and the sun makes its glorious farewell. That this space is all beautifully governed and given, and we belong just here. With Him.
Where are you surprised to discover that Jesus meets you?