It’s link-up day and for just a moment I search through the thumbnail pictures expecting to see her’s somewhere near the top, then reality hits and I remember her picture will not be near the top, or the bottom, it won’t be there at all, she has no new words anymore, only those she has left behind. My heart aches afresh, I have missed her so much this past week.
I return later in the day and search again, hoping again all hope, really against all hope. Then I see something. I’ve heard of it before, but I see it and it makes me smile. Five Minute Friday : Kids Edition. I smile as I think of how much she would have loved that, loved to have read and laughed over the funny, wise, free words of kids. How she would have included them in her community, would have soaked up lessons from them, whilst at the same time encouraging and teaching them so much without even trying.
I have missed her incredibly this week, I don’t know why particularly this week I have missed her. Maybe it is because I’m tired and my pain levels are high and I know she would have something to say into that, she would understand. Maybe it’s because I’ve had to try hard to choose joy the past few days, and I wish she was there to remind me how. Mainly I think it is because she was truly unique, truly special, and nothing quite fits the gap she left.
So I remember. I remember her words, I remember what she taught me, I remember how she blessed me, I remember how she loved, I remember how she trusted, I remember how she chose joy, I remember how she praised, I remember how she gave out, I remember.
I remember Sara, I remember Gitz.
I sit on the hard plastic, half-broken, chair, waiting, waiting, waiting, for them to call my flight to board. People crowded all around. My gaze fixed on one spot, desperately taking breaths, trying to regain control.
I can’t try any longer, I can’t keep control. The tears welling in my eyes spill over. They roll down my cheeks, faster and faster they come. The anger swells in me, and my whole body shakes those tears from my eyes. They roll on to my cracked, open, cheeks and they sting deep. It only causes the tears to come all the more. I can’t even cry without pain thanks to this place.
I brush the tears aside enough to be able to see to reach for my phone. I open it and begin hurriedly typing a message to my friend:
“I hate this freaking country. I can’t wait to leave!”
Beep, beep. A reply
“What’s happened? No one hates this country more than I do!”
My fingers quickly tap out a response.
“It’s so stupid, nothing’s ever going to change. I’m so glad I’m getting out!”
The phone starts ringing in my hand, I look down, it’s a different friend. I try to steady my voice.
– “Hey! I just rang to say goodbye and see how you were feeling with leaving.”
I can’t contain it, I sob down the phone, trying desperately to catch my breath enough to say goodbye. But I can’t. I just sit there, crying. Anger, frustration, hurt, continuing to rise inside me.
– “Are you ok? Where are you?”
– “I’m leaving, and I couldn’t be happier, this place is a nightmare.”
– “oookkkkk… what’s going on? What’s happened?”
So I take some deep breaths, I calm myself, and I begin to tell the story. I recount it all, moment by moment, to her:
How my driver was late, how he ran out of gas, how they closed the roads, and how I was stressed before we even reached the airport road.
Then I tell her of the extra checks, the one where they thoroughly pat down your body with their hands, and then open your cases, empty them, and then leave you to put them back together; all the while telling you to hurry up.
I tell her how weary and on edge I was by the time we reached the airport gates.
I continue telling her how my driver decided to try to skip a search, how the police dragged me out of the car and screamed in my face. How they shouted at my driver, pulled him for the vehicle and beat him with their guns whilst I stood and watched. How I pleaded with him to not argue back, how I thought he was going to die in front of me.
I tell her of the continued increase in checks, the policemen and soldiers who shoved, and pushed, and pulled, and touched me, who kept screaming and shouting at me. How they shut my hand in a door and never once checked if I was ok.
I tell her how they refused to let me go to the bathroom, and how they ran off with my passport.
I tell her how they dropped my laptop on the floor.
I tell her it all, moment by moment.
Airports here are horrible at the best of times, today was even worse than normal. I let the tears spill over freely once more. She hears me from the other end of the phone.
-“I’m sorry Em, that sounds terrible. Don’t give up hope though, don’t remember just these hours, remember the years as a whole.”
I know she’s right. You mustn’t judge a book by its cover, and certainly not by its back cover. I know in the morning I’ll feel differently. In the morning I’ll love this place once more, I’ll long to be back, I’ll hold hope and faith for it; against all the odds.
She speaks again: “Remember the kindness in there too, magnify the light. Those women who cared, remember them.”
I think back, she’s right, I must remember them. The ladies in their cold little metal container check-point. The ladies who saw me crying as they began to search me, who made me sit, who insisted I drink tea with them. Who asked my story, and after listening, asked me to come back. The ladies who cared enough to pour me tea and listen. It is them I must remember.
They call my flight.
-“Thanks, I’ve got to go, they’re going to board my flight. I’ll remember. Love you, see you again, take care.”
-“Love you Em, fly safe.”
I find my seat on the plane and stare out of the window, I let my thoughts calm as I look out over the war-planes, helicopters, tanks, armed soldiers, that fill my view. I find myself praying:
“God, have mercy on them. They can’t help it, they just don’t know you, they don’t know your love, haven’t tasted your forgiveness. Have mercy on them, don’t judge them harshly. Give them a chance to be saved too.”
“Goodbye, until next time.”
I have this friend, she’s called Stefanie. She’s one of the most encouraging people in my life, she points me to Christ daily. She blogs at UpLIFTing Words, if you’re ever in need of an encouraging word, you should hop over there and have a read.
She wrote something a couple of weeks ago which got me thinking. She was doing a typical end-of-year post: “I’m off ~ running right into 2013” [the theme was typical, the post was great] She started with this line:
“As I look back on the last 366 days, I know this: I would walk through them again to know Jesus as I do today.”
It hit me strong, it was going over and over in my mind as I continued to read, so much so that I could hardly pay attention to what I was reading. I went back and re-read. As my day progressed still this line was stuck on repeat in my mind.
“I would walk through them again to know Jesus as I do today.”
It hit me hard because of the question my heart threw at me as I read these words and played them over in my mind. Questions which I did not know the answer to.
“Would I walk them again?”
“Can I fully agree to that statement?”
“Has it been worth it?”
Honestly, between you and me, as I write this I do not yet know what my answer will be.
I look back over the year, over the events. The days spent in bed, the pain, the time-and-time-again set-backs, the waiting, the friends lost, the family lost, the uncertainty, the desert, the silence, the words spoken out-of-place, the hurt, the tears; I remember it all.
I remember the joys, the new friends made, the community deepened, the gratitude developed in me, the gifts received, time spent with friends, the health improved, difficult situations resolved, the memories created; I remember it all.
I remember His presence in it all, His comfort in the tears, His firm grip in the silent dark, His provision, His joy, His love, His care, His leading, His faithfulness; I remember it all.
Pain and hurt have a habit of being a stronger memory than that of joy and love. Though I call it all to mind, it is the difficulties I remember most and I wonder, would I walk through it again? I try to recall how my relationship with Christ looked and functioned a year ago, and I try to assess what it is like now.
The question is not tangled up in if Christ is worth the hardships I have faced. No, my question is wrapped up in if I have grown more intimate with Him, if I have run toward Him, or if I simply stayed frozen-to-the-spot in fear.
I look back over the year and I see, walking through each of those days has allowed me to see aspects of God I never knew, allowed me to experience my Saviour in ways I never imagined. They showed me what it is to be fully dependent on His grace and mercy, they allowed me to know his faithfulness, His never-failing hold, His total independence from me, and yet His great desire to be with me.
Through much thought and deliberation, I say to you, it has been worth it, I would walk each of those days again to know Christ as I do today. I say it a little tentatively, for the hurt of some of those days is still raw. Yet I know there is nothing I would trade for the way I know Jesus now. The thought of going back to January 2012 in our relationship is heart-breaking. I know each of these days has been necessary to create that.
So yes, I would live every one of them again to know Christ as I know Him now.
Disclaimer Prayer: Just because I say that, it doesn’t mean I wouldn’t rather an easier 2013… just putting that out there, God! Whatever it takes though, whatever it takes to be more in love with you.