It was my sister’s 21st Birthday Party the other day. One of those nights that reminded me of those cheesy, Disney-ish moments where everything simply seems awesome (apart from the odd 21st story that seemed to embarrass me on par with Em... oh nudity)
Surrounded by family and friends you love, having a good old laugh, dancing so hard your fringe sticks to your forehead and this deep sense of contentment just rests on you... Life is good!
It was a milestone for the journey I’ve been on since December last year. A year that really smacked me in the face and (to continue the slightly weird metaphor) thus sent me stumbling off balance. Have you ever had one of those moments where you just feel different to the rest? Say, its break time and everyone is eating an apple, most people sit and some may shine said apple on their t-shirt (normal) then the eating of the apple commences (normal) and the juiciness and crispiness of the fruit satisfies them (also normal)... then there’s the one who eats the core, pips, stalk and all (weird). I kind of felt like that I guess. Like I have had my perspective on, well life really, so flipped around that my focus and norm seems off to others and, person that I am, this led to me hiding away from people instead of calling out. But the point of this blog is not to have a big weh (it’s gets better, don’t fret) but to see how going through the weh has changed my life... for the awesome!
You see, I am one of those typical saps who goes to Africa and comes back changed. Here are a few ways in which this has become apparent:
1. Before I went to Mali, I never cried in movies, songs, books, poems, nothing. Now that I am back I cry in lectures, videos, speeches, when I talk about my passions and even at a cookie (long story).
2. Before I went to Mali, I thought I was a Minny-Mother Theresa, that I had it all together and was being sent out to rescue people who were below me- ‘Super Sophie’ (a little embarrassing but I actually doodled this in a school book... also because I can’t draw for peanuts but CAN draw the superman ‘S’ and so needed a word to follow it with)
3. Before I went to Mali I didn’t enjoy toilet humour that much. But after peeing and pooing into a hole the same size as a circle shape you make with your hands, and a few fellow travellers fatal misses into this hole, something deep within me changed.
Poos are hilarious- this has no relevance to my story but must be said.
4. Before I went to Mali, I lived for experience- what I thought was comfort. Whatever made me feel ‘good’, content, satisfied. Life revolved around me. Now, though I surely fumble... and often, I see that life is so much bigger than me, I am living for something greater than myself that is better than my hollow self-ambition and is SO incredibly fulfilling to be part of.
But these are all (or most) things that I have learnt in the crap- not literally- but in suffering. And I for one am tired of people covering up crap- let’s live in the suffering.
The day I met Donki, I left Donki. In the same van she had sat in with me as we drove out to her families crop circle, the same van she shouted out the window, “We are going, we are going!” to the passersby, the same van we dropped her home to stay. The same van my heart broke in. We are broken people for whatever reason.
In this brokenness it is human nature to push people away, to hide behind a curtain and yell to people, “Yeh Nah I’m Fine!” It was in this that the glass shattered for me and I found out what true comfort means. What do you think of when I say the word ‘comfort’? To me, it was warm and cosy, by the fire with a hot cup of chocolate, with marshmallows as the rain poured outside. To me, at that point, I was outside in the rain- pissed off and slowly sad. I longed to be inside where life was ‘good’ and to get there quick. But what I found out not that long ago really, was that I heard comfort all wrong. The definition of comfort has distorted over time and when it was originally written, it actually meant ‘to stand alongside.’ It was as if I was looking for my sunnies when they were on my head the whole time (we’ve all done it)- I looked and looked but the answer was right there. I wanted ‘a state of physical ease and freedom from pain or constraint’, yet I needed to be ‘stood alongside.’ I needed comfort. And I needed to give, comfort. And gladly, since then I have realised this is what I have felt all along- this need for comfort. Why do I care about the people in Mali, in poverty- because I stood alongside them and love them deeply. Why do I care about people here in New Zealand, because I stand alongside them and in that find true comfort. I guess that’s why the 21st made me glad- it is good to be comfortable, just not the way I originally thought about it. And who is it that stands by me when I suffer?
Though I am hopeless- he is hope
Though I am tired- he is rest
Though I am broken- he is whole
Though I am weak- he is strong
Though I am scared- he is courageous
And I am joyful about God