The Most Dazzling

She inhaled deeply from a bright red hookah.  She had bought it with money she earned by teaching Arabic to foreigners, and brought it on this day to enjoy on my front patio, as she told me about her recent hard conversations with her fiancé’s family.  Tone staying cheerful, she switched to English for the serious line.

“I may never get married now.”

We were soaking in the warm sunlight of a January afternoon.  I offered her brownies and coffee for comfort, which she swallowed along with the mint-flavored smoke.  Mugs printed with hearts and the phrase “World’s Best Lover” sat in front of us.  She had given them to me last year, thinking that they translated to something like “Person I Love Most in the World.” 

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I will never tell her differently.

She gave one final sentence in English: “But you live happy– look at you, too– and you’re not married.”

Restlessness had seized me earlier that morning.  It was my day off, probably the last full day off I would get in the upcoming three weeks.  But just as sleep is most elusive when most sought, the harder I tried to focus on renewing soul and body, the more restless I became.

I attempted to be still, but my mind bounced from topic to topic like a Facebook newsfeed.

  • Remembering a late-night Skype call I had made the night before, and reviewing the groceries I needed to purchase that day.
  • Thinking about details for the center’s English program registration on Sunday, and planning for the Young Leaders’ day camps the week after.
  • Trying to get a plot twist in a movie I watched, and getting ready to console the emotional friend coming for coffee that afternoon.

Minutes piled into an hour, and still I sat on my couch, unproductive but unrested.  I crabbily thought, I want You to speak– without much hope for an answer– and turned on music, a last-ditch effort at refocusing my soul before I needed to move on to groceries, and visitors, and another week.  The first two lines said:

God loves His family

Like a man loves His wife.  (from Ben Pasley, Chair and Microphone 1)

And suddenly I had a memory of a conference in Southeast Asia, nine years ago, and a woman named Sharon.  She invited everyone to join her at 5:00 a.m. for a time of prayer.  My roommate, a short-term volunteer, woke up at 4:45 a.m. saying that God had spoken to her through a dream, drawing her to go to this meeting.

I had unintentionally woken up at 4:42 a.m., with a mosquito persistently attacking my right ear.

We were the only ones there with Sharon.  But what she prayed, I may always remember.  I was 22, and content with being single at the time– though I had already had the privilege of being in weddings for half a dozen friends.  Sharon asked God to give me joy in being loved by Him, like the joy of someone who had just gotten engaged.

Overflowing delight and irresistible desire to share it.  Combined confidence in knowing that I am beloved, and boldness from the fact that nothing can shake it.  Nothing can separate me from this love.

Wondering, nine years later, as I sat on the couch, is this kind of connection strong even on ordinary days– when the errands pile up, when my focus is wanting, when I am… well… crabby?

The night before, I talked on Skype with a good friend.  She nuzzled her newborn, told me what it was like to be a mother of three, and said she did not have any big updates.  I marveled; taking responsibility for three small lives, in addition to her own and her husband’s, sounded big to me.  I talked of “ordinariness”– travel plans, language study, and sweet soul talks in Arabic.  She talked of “ordinariness”– house plans, feeding schedules, and the sweetness of speaking life to her neighbors.

We are both deep in radically different streams of ordinary.  But they flow regularly into the same river, requiring the same things of us: open hearts, surrender, forgiveness, discipline in little matters, love, a sense of humor, courage, and reliance on One greater than ourselves.

I got off the couch, as the song finished.  Invited God’s presence into the grocery store errand.  Invited Him to the table with me and my hookah-smoking friend, asking Him to be present as we processed her probable divorce (a broken engagement is equivalent to divorce here, and stigmatizing socially– especially for the woman).

I was still slightly restless and unfocused.  But the blessing, given almost a decade ago on the other side of the world, was moving to a deeper level.  It was starting to look less like an engagement… and more like ordinary days, with three kids.  And a mortgage.  And a steady fire where the heart sits.

My fingers were wrapped around the mug with its proclamation, “World’s Best Lover.”  I looked at my friend.  She released a puff of smoke and switched back to Arabic to ask, “What?”

“You know, right?” I answered.  “You know the reason I can have a full life, even without being married yet?”  She smiles.  She knows this.

In my heart I pray Sharon’s blessing again, with the updates:

May you be someone for whom the “ordinariness”

of life is infused with

contentment, confidence,

and boldness and joy.  

May these come from knowing you

are unconditionally, steadfastly, and 

passionately

loved.  

I don’t always feel this.  But that is why there is a second story.

Love is the most dazzling when we are the least worthy.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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7 thoughts on “The Most Dazzling

  1. Love is so ordinary unless we make it un-ordinary. As in, it is a precious gift easily taken for granted. Oh for soft and impassioned hearts! Praise to the One whose passion runs deep, who lives to love and interceeds over us, whose Spirit’s seven fold fire is never quenched… and lives in us.
    Ps, you ARE one of the world’s best lovers! Pleutonically of course.

    1. Beautiful thoughts, and haha– you got me laughing out loud, with the p.s. I think that sums you up well, Katie– able to speak to hearts deeply and invite deep belly laughter both. God’s best to you!!!!

  2. “We are both deep in radically different streams of ordinary. But they flow regularly into the same river, requiring the same things of us: open hearts, surrender, forgiveness, discipline in little matters, love, a sense of humor, courage, and reliance on One greater than ourselves.” –

    ” But the blessing, given almost a decade ago on the other side of the world, was moving to a deeper level. It was starting to look less like an engagement… and more like ordinary days, with three kids. And a mortgage. And a steady fire where the heart sits”

    oh, this is sooo good. Ordinary looks different for all of us, sometimes radically different, and yet one day we will find that none of it was ordinary at all, even in our most ordinary moments. I love how you compared these things, loved this post! I will be sending some of my friends over here to read this. Thank you!

    1. Thanks, Michelle! Much appreciated encouragement. May your days be full of God’s abundance and abundant joy in the middle of whatever is “ordinary”– or not-so-much ordinary– in them!

  3. You have me in tears reading, dearest little sis!! We never know how our ordinary (The Spirit through it, that is!) is touching another dear one’s need.. I’m very aware that no one needs more of me but all of us need more of Him!! What a gift that we hear Him while sitting together to pour out our hearts to Him! : )

    “O Abba, how I pray that Your Spirit might speak powerful Truth and Freedom, drawing us to dive deeper into You where Life overflows and transforms us and those around us… Help me not to despise the ordinary or hold back in fear of failure (or even success that I likely won’t know what to do with…) Strengthen the patterns that set the stage and empower us to hear better the “break out of the normal and follow Me here” invitations that You are extending to us. You are on pilgrimage through Your world, loving those You created for Yourself and we want to be “covered in the dust from Your sandals” (to borrow a phrase). Deepen our disciplines of delighted dependency so that You have Your way all over the place in our lives. We love You and You are soooo worthy! May our community with each other increase and deepen, bearing much fruit!

    I LOVE the way you value and affirm the ordinary of your own life and your friends in this post. The beauty of your partnership, the ways that your streams though different and distant meander through His Kingdom and mingle in LIFE together… This honors both Him and your friend…

    Much Love!

  4. This is really beautiful! I came over from Velvet Ashes, and it is encouraging there are others in relationships with people whose ordinary is so different than my ordinary.

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