Some things come when you least expect them, fewer when you want them, but all when you need them.
A romanticised view, perhaps, but something I’d tout as true none the less, unhappy or otherwise as the circumstance may be. Humanity seems to be promised to by God; scripture boasts countless verses that say as much- imploring the weary soul to wait, the anxious mind to trust, and the darkened heart to find quiet hope in the little pools of light that guide each small step, and- often- the shadow-soaked stretches we must leap in between. But here I digress.
All things, in good time.
A letter came today– its envelope a mix of things, scrawled across in a familiar hand but marked with stamps in a number of strange languages. A world traveler, this one, eagerly awaited and expected. Three pages of tightly packed script trying to concisely convey a lifetime’s worth of experiences occurring in only a month.
Watching the light toys twirl their way madly into the Sichuan night and hang- suspended- over the glittering masses of Chunxi Lu; moving across the streets in herds, the taste of tea eggs and Chengdu bread mingled with the smells of a thousand different shops; the calm quiet of a coffee shop on Sunday mornings; the charm of the Magic Bookstore and pen shop. The darkness and awe at Leshan and Mt. Emei. The Chaos of Jin Li market, the lanterns swinging overheard in the slight summer breeze. Hot pot, tau fu fa, and kumquat limeade.
Watching the dawn of recognition and understanding in the student’s eyes as we taught. Our own tongues stumbling over the riddles and rhymes they wrote to practice their sound. The foreign sound of our words from their mouths, and then their words from ours.
The strange newness of the church, and yet the welcoming warmth; of worshiping with people of a different language and culture and finding yourself at home with the family of Christ. But most of all, the peace of Sunday-evening assemblies. The way we sang- all harmonies- and lay things before each other before taking them before the throne.The difference between the sea of strange and silent faces we met on the first day, and the smiling, tear-stained ones of friends we left on the last.
I wrote to myself about the hard things and the lessons I had begun to learn, as if I had peered into the future and seen the ones I would most easily forget. The ones I’d try to. The hard ones. And as if it knew the transpiring events, foresaw the stumble, trip, and fall of the semester declining into its winter, the letter made its way here, today, amidst the doubt and gathering shadows. It found me as I hide my hands behind my back and begin to scuttle away once more to the furthest reaches of the darkest corners, and cast some sort of beam into the gloom.
Well, I’m not claiming the divine intelligence of the mail delivery system, but perhaps of a God who knows my propensities, what I need to see and to remember, and when. Not a minute too soon, never a moment too late. When I least expected it.
When I didn’t want want it.
When I needed it.