On The Other Side
I never expected to get emotional about a few small boxes. The announcement came over the PA system that the US Container was down in the cargo hold and boxes were ready to be claimed. Conveniently, Roger was in the interior for the day with the screening team which meant I was left alone to go up and down 3 decks, 4 times, to retrieve our items. I excitedly made my way down to deck 3, which happens to be the hospital, and barely noticed patients as I made my way to the huge metal doors leading into the hold. "Merry Christmas!" "Have fun!" Experienced crew knew the overwhelming joy of the containers coming in and offered Christmas greetings as we passed! It was true, we could no longer remember what we shipped several months back and getting the boxes did feel a lot like Christmas!
Roger instructed me to not open any boxes before he made it back to the ship - there was no way that was happening! I brought the first box up 3 decks and down the hall to our cabin and placed it on the dining room table. I quickly made my way back down to get another box, passing more people on the way also eagerly wishing me a Merry Christmas!
This time as I came to deck 3, the hospital, there was a little girl in a hospital gown kicking around a ball, giggling and smiling at me. I stopped for a brief second, kicked the ball to her and carried on to the cargo hold. Bending down to pick up another box, several friends were retrieving their boxes as well and asked if I needed any help. I said I was fine and made my way back down the hall, smiling at the little girl again but unable to kick the ball with her due to the weight of my heavy box.
I placed the second box on the table next to the first and suddenly a lump came into my throat. What was happening? I left again and made that familiar trip down to deck 3. On the way I saw a friend also going down and I told her I was surprised to be getting emotional over these boxes! "I guess it's because I know there is a piece of home inside," I said, trying to justify the emotion.
Box 3 made it to the table, followed by a large duffle bag with contents I already knew because we packed it in Texas - clothing and extra toiletries. The children were still in school so I was left alone with these boxes. That lump in my throat was growing and I looked for some scissors. There were a few surprises I had packed that I wanted to get out before the children got home, so I started to open things up. When I saw my apron, I started to cry. In an instant I was a mess on the floor missing home more than ever before. I couldn't really stop crying and I was very thankful to be having this moment alone.
I made my way back to the boxes and opened some more. I pulled out a small clay shape of Africa and smiled. My sweet friend hosted a night of prayer for me in her beautiful home before we left California and everyone made the continent of Africa out of clay to remind them to pray for me. I took a picture and texted it to her "Look what I just got!"
"I have mine next to my makeup mirror. I think of you and pray," she replied.
"I didn't expect to cry when I saw our boxes! I guess knowing that pieces of home were inside grabbed my heart."
"I bet! And the whole journey, remembering who you were as you packed those boxes!" she answered back.
Her words explained my emotions more than I could have on my own. I sat down on the couch and cried, remembering who I was when we packed those boxes. I was a mess! I was exhausted and stressed, physically in so much pain and overwhelmed. When I packed those boxes I was already in the throes of grief. Opening these boxes was almost like opening up all those feelings again. Selling our home and getting rid of most of our belongings, leaving our community, church and family was the hardest thing I've ever done. But we did it! It was all behind us now. I sat on the couch in my cabin on the Africa Mercy docked in Dakar, Senegal and cried. Those boxes opened up some grief, but they also opened up the truth that we are on the other side! We went through the darkest valley and made it out to tell of God's great faithfulness and provision!
I thought of that little girl down in the hospital who left her home and all that was familiar to go to a place she'd never seen before. I can't imagine how scared she must have been; What is about to happen to me? Will I be ok? Will I ever get to go home again? Perhaps these were some questions swirling around in her head as she walked up the many steps of the gangway onto the ship. I know those were some of my fearful questions. She was entering the unknown just like we did.
Now here she was, out of surgery, healing and kicking a ball in the hospital halls. She made it! She was on the other side of her fears and worry. What once was unknown, now was revealed as a place of love, transformation and healing. What once hindered her, was now operated on and fixed. She made it through the dark valley and now is free to live her life with a story to tell of God's great faithfulness.
God never leaves us alone in the dark scary valleys of life. He is ever present with us, transforming us, equipping us, loving us, so that when we get to the other side, we have a great story to share of His goodness and faithfulness.