“Beep, beep, beep…” the alarm sounds, just like it did the day before. I roll out of bed and walk sleepily to the kitchen to boil some water for coffee and oatmeal before throwing some sausages on the griddle. As the water steams and the sausages sizzle, I slap a sandwich together and throw it into a plastic bag along with some pretzels and an apple, just like I did the day before. I fill my jug up with water, sit down to eat my breakfast while simultaneously reading a Psalm, and head out the door for work, grabbing my truck keys along the way, just like I did the day before. Then I wake up.
Was I dreaming? I must have been, because this scene from Idaho seemed too familiar, and familiar has become a foreign word. Here, I never know what to expect in a day. Not that I do something fun or adventurous every day, it’s not like that, instead, it’s more of the same routine, except, I don’t understand this routine, or how I fit into it. Today, I wake up wondering what I will do. I know I’ll bring Micah to school, I know I need to find people to talk to in order to grow in my understanding of life here, but I have no idea how I’ll do it until later afternoon, when I’ll go to listen to stories with some guys from the neighborhood. I ask God to lead me to the right people as I get off the bus with Micah, and we walk the short distance to his school. I say goodbye to Micah, we do our secret handshake, and I walk away. Near the school, I run into a friend slashing the grass in the lawn. I end up helping him for a couple of hours, thankful for the opportunity to get to know him a little better and exercise my Swahili, as well as my arm. I return home soaking wet, just like I did the day before, only the day before I was surprised by a sudden rainstorm, today from sweat.
Later, I found out someone else on our street has died, but they have already done the burial. I felt bad, especially when everyone I talked to said they’d gone to the funeral, while we were too late. Here, it is not good to miss the funeral of one of your neighbors. There are still so many things that happen around us each day that I am oblivious to. So much of what is routine for our neighbors has not yet registered on my radar. Too often, we are ships passing in the dark. Someone has compared culture to an iceberg, and I think it serves as a good illustration. What you can see on top, people’s outward behavior, is held up by what you can’t see underneath, a huge mass which contains the sum of their past experiences, interactions with others, education, religious teaching, and a host of other factors which makes them who they are. Here, people have grown up in similar surroundings, which have caused their icebergs to form in a similar fashion, so they can relate. For me, I was brought up in a vastly different setting, and while it’s true there are a few things I have in common with my neighbors here, in many ways my iceberg has quite a different shape, making it much harder to relate.
Now, I’m no longer dreaming, I’m wide awake. I remember being thirteen, watching a football game in my parents living room. The announcer commented how cornerbacks need a short memory when covering wide receivers. He was saying that after they get beat on a route, they need to shake it off and focus on the next play, maintaining their confidence. I remember further back, when I was nine, asking my mom how I could keep going after I kept making the same mistakes. She showed me the 16th verse from Proverbs chapter 24, which says, “a righteous man may fall seven times and rise again.” I knew I’d fallen more than seven times, but I got the concept: you may lose some battles, but don’t give up on the war.
At the end of the day, I realize to make it here I need to be walking with God. I need to follow his leading, to rest in his acceptance, to enjoy his forgiveness, and to take courage in his calling. I know when I go out and make a mistake, when I miss out on important community events, when I stumble all over my words, when I make myself into a fool, I need to forget it, move on, take a break if I need one, and then get back out again. I may not know what’s coming next, but I know someone who has promised to direct me, and its all part of the process of learning, making new friends, and slowly building a new familiar.
Many things about tomorrow, I don’t seem to understand
But I know who holds tomorrow, and I know who holds my hand.