Tuesday, January 24, 2012

A World of Contradictions

I live in a world of incredible contradictions.

I live in a world where I know in my mind that medicine heals. But then I go to the hospital and spend a few hours with a precious little girl and I learn that all that I knew to be true may in fact only be a partial reality.  Because when I walked into this shy, introverted, inattentive little girl’s room on Thursday night, I got no reaction. As soon as I saw her glance over her computer screen at me and, with no acknowledgeable response, look back down at her Barbie.com project, I knew instantly that this night would be a challenge. I prayed quickly and quietly “God, please show me how to relate to this little girl.”  I thought back to Kisses from Katie that I am currently reading. Katie is a young girl from Nashville currently working at an orphanage and school in Africa. She notes often that she is not a nurse or a teacher, but to help these people she does the only thing that she knows how to do. She shows them that she loves them. Overcoming language barriers, she feeds them, bandages them, and simply hugs and dances with them. As I looked at this little elementary-aged girl, alone in a room on isolation and not knowing what kinds of medical terms and experiences she knows that I could not even imagine, I did what I knew how to do. I proved to her that I could love. I silently sat down in her rocking chair, picked up one of her baby dolls, and quietly rocked her. The entire time, I didn’t speak directly to the little girl. I knew that would be intimidating. I didn’t even look at her, but I could see her slowly start to pay attention. I hummed a lullaby. I swaddled the doll in a tiny little hospital gown. I fed her a bottle. And when the baby got “fussy”, I stood to bounce and shush her. But you see, I am not the baby doll’s mother. And mother always knows best. The little girl slowly climbed out of bed, came over to me, and carefully took her baby from my arms. She bounced the baby, calmed her, and put her to sleep in her own hospital bed, raising the rails so as not to roll off.  Then the little girl looked at me, took my hand, and smiled. We slowly began to tend to the rest of her babies lining the window sill.  And by the end of the night, I was French braiding her hair while she blared Demi Lovato so loudly that the nurses had to come tell us to quiet down. So while yes, medicine is healing her body, I can see another world. A world where French braids and baby dolls and dance parties bring healing to her soul.

I live in a world of “once-in-a-lifetimes”. I am constantly dreaming of vacations and travels and experiences. I adore the adventure and thrive when I am experiencing new things in life for the first time - like sky diving in the Smoky Mountains or surfing in Hawaii or camping in Yellowstone. But I also live for the day-to-day. Because while those grand experiences add color to my days, the day-to-day is what builds and sustains a life. My home and my family and my friends and my career and my church and my God are beautiful because they are a part of who I am. They aren’t what I do on the weekends or what I look forward to, they are the gifts that are present every day and in every moment. So while extraordinary adventures take my breath away, the ordinary is what gives me Breath and Life.

I live in a world where freedom is so common that it almost feels like a guarantee. I live in a country where I can go wherever I want, say what I want to say, and be what I want to be. But as a follow up to a previous resolution, a sweet friend and I attended a Welcome Home ceremony at Fort Campbell and it became clearer than ever that our freedom comes at an incredible price. Freedom is anything but free. I saw fathers meeting their toddlers for the first time and young women running into the arms of their mothers.  I saw a little boy perched on the shoulders of his grandfather scanning the sea of camouflage anxiously trying to find his daddy. I saw a beautiful woman weep when she saw her fiancĂ© march off of the plane as she yelled his name and waved a handmade sign in his direction. 

And through the crowd of tiny little American flags waving proudly in the air, I saw nearly 200 soldiers march proudly into an airplane hangar, lay down their weapons, pick up yellow roses, and run to the people that they love. 

The soldiers paid an incredible price while they were gone to Afghanistan, many for the second, third, or even fourth time. It was beautiful to see them all come home, but also a painful reminder that not everyone does. And it is clear that the people that they left behind paid an incredible price as well. So if you ever start to feel comfortable in this life that you are in, if you ever want to realize that you are a part of a world that is so much bigger than yourself, if you ever need to see that you live in a world where freedom is not free, attend a Welcome Home ceremony. It will change your heart. But it isn’t for us. It is to say thank you to the people who deserve all of the cheers and the signs and the photos and the flowers that they can get. So for many years my world of freedom lived in no contradiction.  But thanks to the soldiers of the 159th Combat Aviation Brigade, my world of freedom is now also a world of sacrifice.

I live in a world of physical beauty. The sunsets. The babies. The waterfalls. The smiles. The wrinkled hands. The flying flag. The homemade dinners. The expansive beaches. But I also live in a world of the spiritual. A world where the greatest is the least. Where the weak can be strong. Where the blind can see. Where wounds bring healing. Where losing your life means gaining Life. Where letting go means holding on. Where the broken are beautiful. Where thirsty souls meet Living Water. Where the unseen are the only things that are real.  There is Hope and Comfort and Love and Beauty and Life. This world is not independent of the other worlds, but rather all other worlds are dependent on this. On a Creator and Sustainer and Redeemer and Forgiver. And this world? This is Home. 

This is a world of heads and tails, peanut butter and jelly, hearts and souls, ordinary and extraordinary, freedom and sacrifice, living and Life. And the balance between the contradictions? It's beautiful.

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