last week i bought my return ticket to Liberia.
i’d known it was coming. i had a tentative date on the calendar, and i knew that airfare prices were going to skyrocket into the holiday season. the sooner i bought the ticket, the better.
i’d known it was coming, but my heart still skipped a beat as i pushed the confirm button. and when the itinerary showed up in my inbox, my stomach did a miniature somersault. i was giving away another six months of my life, and i was getting guaranteed joy, pain, tears, laughter, stretching, and growth in return. i had completed the exchange, the same one i go through over and over again, year after year.
i looked at their photographs and remembered the moments in which each one had been taken. memories of the way their fingers intertwine with my own consumed me, and tears sprung to my eyes. for a season, at least, these little ones are mine. God gives me, time and time again, the task of loving His little ones as though they are my own, caring for them by the beat of His own tender heart.
the tears kept falling.
but what about when i fail them, God? what about when i fail you? what about when i’m tired and empty and have nothing left to give? what about when my temper is short and my patience thin, when i miss opportunities to love, when it seems like i’m making no difference at all? what about when they’re sick and they’re lonely and they’re hurting and i ache for them but i just can’t fix it? what about when i become jaded and hard, when this bleeding heart dries up that it may protect itself? what about when i judge and criticize, when i want to give up, when i want to walk away and go home, go any place but there?
i cried, and i asked my questions to which there can be no reply. i don’t want cheap theology or easy answers. i don’t want to be told “it’s going to be okay” or the ever-popular “His strength is made perfect in our weakness.” even if those responses are true, they feel trite. and i’m sorry, but i just don’t want them.
and so i sat in the questions, in the why there and not here?, why now?, why me? i sat and i cried and i stopped trying to figure any of this out.
and that’s when i heard it, the soft pulse of the Father’s heart. for me, for Liberia, for those children.
it kept beating, gentle and true, and after a while, my eyes opened and my cheeks felt tight from falling tears that have dried onto skin. i listened to the beat and listened to the mystery and i felt the sound of my own heart synching up with His.
this. this is why i do it. this is the reason for the exchange. because His heart is still bleeding, for the poor and the orphan, for the oppressed and the broken. His heart is still beating for His bride to rise up and know her worth. His heart is still throbbing for those who call themselves His own to give up what they hold in clutched hands so that He can fill them with what He sees fit.
His heart is beating, and i felt it in my chest. and so on January fifth, i will go. i will go and love and teach and grown and learn and hurt and hold and write and pray and see.
i will go. because i can hear His heart beating.