A Goodbye Bolivia, Hello United States Note:
I wrote a different version of this two months ago. It read exactly as it should have: as if it were written by a grieving, anxious, quietly angry person. And as I write this today, it’s true that those parts of me are still voicing themselves, but I seem to have found a peace and clarity in this past month that leaves me less overwhelmed by grief and sadness, and instead dominated by a hope and a trust in what comes next.
Today, I write in thanksgiving that I was given these two-plus years. I know I am grieving because I am leaving behind a beautiful time in my life, because I am leaving family, because I am leaving a chapter that was full to the brim with struggle, tears, and suffering, but all held in the palms of a loving Father who used those things to bring to bear peace and trust within me.
My perspective on life has certainly been shaken up a bit, and some crucial truths have finally truly moved from head to my heart.
Like the fact that my happiness and peace is not determined by ticking off the boxes I’ve convinced myself I must tick. I’ve come to realize that I don’t have to figure out any big plans awaiting me. This is it. This is the big plan. I’m living it, right now. It will not suddenly become the plan when I enter my vocation, or land on a career track, or live in a perfectly decorated home. This is it. Now.
My life in Cochabamba is simple. The plumbing rarely functions. I don’t know the last time I had a hot shower. My digestive system may never quite be the same. I’m not in a long term relationship, I have no job lined up, heck I don’t own a couch or pots and pans. But I have been full to the brim every single minute of life here. And the only way I can explain that, given the suffering I’ve lived and seen, is that I’ve known that this is where God has willed me to be.
This truth has finally settled: Big things take time. As Pierre Teilhard de Chardin said, “Trust in the slow work of God.” I remember hearing that phrase when I was at orientation with the Salesians, and found myself push back against it. I’d always lived by a timeline, the requisite milestones easily measured, and I sincerely believed that life just might end if I didn’t nail down every achievement I imagined for my future. Now as I look out into the unknown future, I feel less as if I’m about to fall off a cliff, and more like I’m between Platforms 9 and 10, running full force at what appears to be a brick wall because I have an irrational trust that it’s not a wall but a door, with more miraculous-ness awaiting me on the other side.
I’ve come to accept that struggling, inching ones way along, feeling oneself fighting against pride and plans and expectations, isn’t such a bad thing. As Brother Isaiah sings: “Every good thing is born of a struggle.” My fellow missioner and friend Sarah Jane quipped: the phrase is not “Every good thing is born of my perfectly executed plans”, or “Every good thing is born of my color coded to-do list.” I realized a couple months back as I started to “plan” my time for back home, that my planning had turned into an attempt to manage things to the nth degree in the hope that if I orchestrated everything perfectly, it would mitigate the pain of leaving here. Which just ain’t how it works!
It’s been a blessed two years, and yet, I trust that what comes next will be just as beautiful, even if it will feel a bit like wandering through the desert in search of the promised land. And when I have left the desert, I will look back fondly on that time, knowing it was necessary and willed by my loving Father.
I ask for your prayers for the girls and the sisters. I have every confidence that He will be taking care of them, as He always has.
I ask for your prayers for my family.
I ask for your prayers for me, especially that I may maintain my peace as I navigate the challenges of the transition ahead.
And I give thanks to God for you all, who have walked beside me in so many ways during the past two plus years.
Que te vaya con Dios,