Thursday, 23 February 2012

between now and the next

It's like you wake up from a dream and realize that you're lying on a different bed, staring at a different ceiling. There were a few hours of shuteye on a boeing-sized metal bird, some microwaved food on a tray-table, and pit-stops through some people with uniforms. And then, to find yourself in another world which seems all but a dream world now. That you wake up in the middle of the night, lying wide-awake in search for signs of the familiar. "Wait, I know this room! I've been here before". But you're actually so far from here, and don't know what's really real anymore. It's all a dream within a dream, a world within a world.

There's a reality which is so far from real, and one which is so real in the heart now. Like it's the only thing that feels real. Like a dream I didn't want to wake up from. Because even though the body is at home, the heart isn't.
It belongs on the broken road and the hurting ground, for a Kingdom coming where the lost are found. And every corner I've been in this world with a cross and a call, I've found my home with the sick and the poor. The pieces of my heart now live among slums, villages and orphanages from Sub-Saharan Africa to Southern Asia. And whatever little is left of it- is here with me tonight on this bed, in these words. I'm reminded by Wisdom that "to love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything, and your heart will certainly be wrung and possibly broken." Surely, there will come a day when all the broken pieces are redeemed, but until then I keep breaking myself open and giving my heart away. Like a song that rings on, I'm still holding out for the encore. To sing with voices I've never heard. A song that will take me to places I've never been and people I've never seen. Because the prophecy is far from the precipice. The story is far from over; it is only beginning. Though a chapter ends, the pages ahead will take me to suffering and injustice I haven't yet beheld. And that remains the prayer; to be sent to the corners of the earth with those who suffer much and suffer violence, to suffer with them. To walk with them. To believe with them, for the Kingdom that's coming. Where justice and mercy are not just words that tickle the ear, but touch the sky from the mud-huts and slum-shacks. To plead the case of the fatherless and the widow, for a cause that has always been bigger than benevolence. For Love.


No one said that it would be easy, but who knew that it would be this hard. It takes much more faith to say goodbye, than to say hello. It takes much more faith to wake up from the dream, that to wrestle with the doubts. It takes much more faith to be in the now, than to believe in the next. Because now, these eyes have seen things. These feet have tread through things, and these hands have held "the least of these". How do you go on living when you've seen so much? How do you go on when you've been through much? It's easy to get on a plane facing the unknown with a one-way ticket, but it's much harder to face yourself with a ticket home. The anthem keeps repeating "I saw what I saw, and I can't forget it... something on the road, cut me to the soul". That's the part that nothing can prepare you for; the hardest part. The age-old truth that you should love enough to let go, even as they hold pieces of your heart and your soul. There's nothing poetic or profound with it, but only the pain in seeing their faces still flash in my head. I still remember it like yesterday when they reached for every inch of my hand. I still remember walking through the dirt road for the last time, followed by a village in tears. I still remember the little girl who ran back to clasp her arms around me, pleading that I stay. But even in our lament of losing each other, they understand the calling on a life to serve the poorest of the poor. They understand places where children suffer more, from wars to famines to sickness. And it's humbling thing when an orphan looks at me with tears in the eyes, and understanding in the heart to say that "I want to take care of those without mommies and daddies too". Although it deeply humbles me to hear of friends who encourage me by using big words like "inspiration",  it's an all-together different thing when a small child is inspired to take up this call. So I try to keep it all in (foolish and futile) to stay strong from breaking down, through dirt roads and flying metal-birds and airport check-points. Which brings me to tonight.

I realize now that it's not about the fact that I came. It was that I went. Even when I had nothing to give, it was about the fact that my hands were given to hold. It wasn't about "making a difference", it was about loving the different. And, in an age of pop-culture philanthropy, I'm praying that I live changed as opposed to living for change. It's printed as catchy slogans on our sweatshop-free t-shirts, plastered on our billboards deceiving charitable campaigns for consumerism, and even possible through the click of a finger in cyberspace. Although I completely understand the value of such things (and even engage in them; apathy and avarice starts with me),  I know that the change I wish to see won't come until it costs something. Until I pay for it with my tears, my prayers, my breaths, my fears, my failures, my dreams, even unto the cost of death. Even when the physical sickness becomes a symptom of a deeper unbearable pain. The kind of pain that makes even death an easy choice. The kind of pain where your sweat becomes blood and your tears become food. It was that painful kind of cost that brought any change in this world. It happened two-thousand years ago, through a Teacher and twelve ordinary people, and it still happens today. I see it in my heroes like Katie and Renee and Sarah.
And that remains the prayer; to be built up to be broken again. Broken open for Love until there's nothing left to break. To shine even when it rains down darkness. To live, even if it means the cost of death. So, let their names be written on my epitaph, with whom my love cost something. All the ones I've held in my hands, carried in my arms, wiped away tears, fed to fill and kissed to sleep. But the grave can wait, because the story is far from over.

It goes beyond the rhetoric or the romantic. The "call within the call" has always been Uganda, and was heard ages before I went to a travel-agent to fly me home. The story is just beginning. And now for the first time in my life, I have someone to share this calling with and carry the cross with, Africa and anywhere else. So here I am between now and the next. But, it was always about the in-between. Life being found between the blessing and the curse, the flower and the thorn, the now and the next. I want to stand now stalwart in the calling, till my next appointment with the agent. There are pieces of my heart that still remain to be given away. 

6 comments:

  1. God has gotten ahold of your heart, Jobin. It's so obvious. He is allowing you to see the people He cares about through lenses that most people won't even consider picking up, much less look through. And though it costs you much, your riches and depth of joy and love will be greater than most of the people around you. Thank you for taking the narrow road that so few choose to follow and paving the way for the rest of us.

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  2. Brother, thank you for this. "Even when I had nothing to give, it was about the fact that my hands were given to hold. It wasn't about "making a difference", it was about loving the different. And, in an age of pop-culture philanthropy, I'm praying that I live changed as opposed to living for change." Thank you for your humility, revealing your heart, and bleeding in your writing. I find great solace in your words and heart.

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  3. welcome home, but then again, you were home in India first Africa. I'll just say Welcome! my friend.

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  4. Everywhere I look people are searching for meaning. They are buying it with every purchase, but never possessing it. We long to live a life of meaning, but have suffered no hardship. We live in an entitled culture, are protected from the ugly truth of others suffering, we have been raised by soft men in a soft time. Where is the meaning that our hearts cries out for? It is in the journey that I see in you. Thank you for living a story worth retelling.....

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  5. Thank you so much for expressing what my heart so badly wants to say, but cannot say as eloquently as this. Your writing is beautiful... I think I have a new favorite blog here!

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  6. nice this blog.
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