Using a lightsaber with the blast shield down (11/3/12)
[Luke is training with his lightsaber and a laser remote aboard the Millennium Falcon.]
Ben Kenobi: [gets up and takes a blast helmet] I suggest you try it again, Luke. Only this time, let go your conscious self and act on instinct. [puts the helmet on Luke, which covers his eyes]
Luke Skywalker: But with the blast shield down, I can’t even see! How am I supposed to fight?
Ben Kenobi: Your eyes can deceive you. Don’t trust them. Stretch out with your feelings! [Watches Luke succeed in blocking the lasers] You see? You can do it.
Sometimes I hear about people who have made big decisions, and all they describe is the decision. Perhaps a little lead-up to it, and they appear to go off into the sunset at peace for rest of their days. Quitting their job as an investment banker to become a poet. Taking a leave of absence to travel the world. Putting a career on hold to support a spouse or raise a child.
You don’t often hear about the ‘in-between’ moments, the panic, the fear, the second-guessing.
For the last week and today, I am having one of those in-between times. Fear. Panic. Waking up in the early hours of the morning with a flood of thoughts: How will we buy a car? What if the car needs maintenance and we don’t have the right amount in the budget? What if we can’t raise enough support? What if we can’t afford to take a holiday? What if the kids get malaria, or TB, or some crazy African disease I’ve never heard of? What if we move back to the USA or Australia and haven’t saved for the kids’ university education?
And, ever-present…the lingering, brooding, sickening question…What are we DOING? Are we fools? Have we made the wrong decision?
Our lifestyle transition to Africa has been profound…a massive change. Several years of post-university working and career progression, earning a normal salary, owning houses, being fortunate enough to basically spend what we liked…and now…rural Africa. Some days I think I’m used to it, and then others: the internet doesn’t work (again), all of Kenya has a shortage of Diet Coke, our old 4WD needs major maintenance again, we are in the grocery store weighing up whether or not we can afford the good muesli, I convene a meeting to which everyone shows up 30 minutes late and during which nothing is accomplished…and I want to take the fastest plane to somewhere not-Africa. Somewhere I can draw a normal paycheck and have a predictable and safe life.
What are we doing?
We made the decision a few weeks ago that we were going to extend here another 4 years…a decision that involved prayer, fasting, seeking the counsel of other crazy risk-takers we respect. It was kind of an easy choice, to be honest…we couldn’t really think of anything we would rather do. We’ve never felt so alive, so like what we’re doing really matters.
But I feel like I’m trying to use a lightsaber with the blast shield down. I know I’m supposed to, I know I want to…but I’m scared because I can’t see more than a few inches in front of me and I don’t want that little flying ball to zap me with a laser.
I can’t tell you how we are going to be able to afford to buy a car next year. I don’t know how we’re going to be able to pay for Riley and Liam’s school fees. I don’t know where the money is going to come from for us to take holidays, and have periods of Sabbath and relaxation. We’re pretty a pretty typical doctor and engineer…schedules, programs, budgets…we are planning nerds. We thrive on it. And to not be able to answer all of the questions I have really bothers me, it makes me nervous…keeps me up nights. I learned 14 years ago when I fell in love with someone on the other side of the globe that having a 5 year career/life plan was not in the cards for me…but now I don’t even have a 6 month plan. I crave predictability.
What have we done?
I can’t yet tie up all these thoughts with a happy resolution…it’s still unresolved in my mind, and the only clarity I have at the moment is that I’m pretty sure it’s supposed to be. Somehow, this fear, this second-guessing, this being forced to relinquish having the answers at hand is something to be worked through rather than to be avoided.
In my devotional readings this week, Oswald Chambers in My Utmost for His Highest says, “Being born again by the Spirit of God means that we must first be willing to let go before we can grasp something else…Along each step of this process, we will have to give up our claims to our rights to ourselves. Are we willing to surrender our grasp on all that we possess, our desires, and everything else in our lives? We will suffer a sharp, painful disillusionment before we fully surrender.”
Sacrifice. Surrender. Sigh. Am I willing to surrender not being able to put in place a plan to save for my children’s education? Not knowing where our support will come from in 2013? Not knowing where funding will come from for the projects we want to deliver at the Hospital?
I don’t know. I can say, with conviction, that it is extremely difficult, and I am not certain that I want to.
At times like this, I am grateful that the books of Lamentations and Ecclesiastes were included in the Hebrew Bible/Old Testament. The former, with its public, heart-wrenching grieving and total lack of pseudo-Christian “Chicken Soup for the Soul”-like platitudes; the latter with its so-honest-it-makes-me-uncomfortable clarity about the reality of life.
And I am starting to read Proverbs 3:5-6 with a different sort of intensity: “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight.”