Friday, September 28, 2012

Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one’s lifetime.”                                    - Mark Twain

Monday, September 24, 2012

On longing...

I've been reading this book lately that has been wrecking me.

As most things my sister gives me, I have to wait until I'm ready for them. Whether new music, a 'good' book, or even an article of clothing, I have to wait until my heart is ready for it. Regardless of how excited she is about it. Which is comical because we have similar taste, and enjoy many things mutually.

So, as always, when she handed me this book and said "It's SO good! I really think you'll enjoy it," I tried to be excited and start the book right away.

Epic fail.

I lasted three pages and slammed it shut in frustration with an inner exclamation of, "this is incredibly boring!" I re-shelved it and there it stayed for most of the summer. (Kind of embarrassing when my sister asked how I was liking it and I explained I hadn't started it yet...) But then I watched a movie that got me excited about the Camino del Santiago, which consequently is what the book is about.

I gingerly picked it up again.

I fought through the introduction (side note: I despise introductions. I find them boring and wordy, and I just want to get to the 'good stuff') and got into chapter one. I was hooked.

The author, Phileena, and her husband had been missionaries overseas for years. Day after day after day of giving of themselves to those they had set out to serve. But also copious moments spent not taking care of their own hearts. This granted them the time to take a sabbatical, the first 33 days of which they spent walking the Camino, an ancient pilgrimage route that ends at the burial place of James, son of Zebedee. The book is written along her journey, but walks the reader through the steps of contemplative spirituality as much as it walks along her Camino journey. Its a beautiful ongoing metaphor.

The part that is really getting to me within the last week or so, however, is a section in which she writes about longing:

Longings are like growing pains in that their origins can be difficult to trace, and yet they give indication of something deep and profound, something immediately true of us. In that respect, noting our longings and looking more deeply into them can function as a sort of "thin space," in which God pierces our desires and then redeems them with a more devout understanding for how we can live in relationship to God, one another and all of creation. (p. 58)

These words are probably the most direct avenue I have ever encountered to describe what I've wrestled with for most (if not all) of my life since turning 16. In that year I went on my first overseas mission trip, and I have never been able to be the same. That week in Mexicali brought forth a longing in my heart that has not found satiation ever again, save for the handful of times that I have been blessed to be overseas again.

And like most things, I've tried to brush it aside. I've attempted to hide it, disguise it, smother it. Like an unwanted birth-mark, I've tried to say it wasn't mine. Partly because it's different, but mostly because it's difficult. It is exhausting to constantly long for something different from life.

It is exhausting, but also amazing. It is on purpose and for a specific reason. This truth doesn't make it any easier, but it does shed a different color light on the situation.

And so I sit, read this book that is wrecking me, and long for a time when I will see these desires become reality.