I’m all buckled in.
I’ve had to have checked the seat belt three times at least.
All of my friends are in the seats beside, in front, and behind me but it feels like I’m the only one on this thing. The girl working the control board comes over the speakers. “Please keep your arms and legs inside the car until the ride has come to a complete stop.” My palms start sweating and my stomach already feels queasy. I know the ride can only last a maximum of a minute and a half, but to me, that’s 90 seconds too long. The brakes squeal as they release, and there’s no turning back now that we’re starting our climb up the first hill. Nervous chatter fills the seats, but all I can hear are my own thoughts. My own doubts. The belt keeps clicking as we continue our ascent. I try to look ahead toward the track to see what’s about to happen, how much higher we have to go, which loop is first, so that I can prepare myself. But I can’t see a thing. The only thing I can see is the ground and just how high I actually am getting. The people are becoming smaller and smaller as my heartbeat is getting stronger and stronger and my grip keeps getting tighter and tighter. I chuckle under my breath. “Why do I do this to myself?” It seems so silly. “Knowing my luck, this would be the one time that something goes wrong on this thing.” Even the knowledge that millions upon millions of people have gone before me, and even more than that will go after me, I still can’t help but brace myself for the worst. And then we come to that dreaded halt. Where I know it’s about to start. But it hasn’t yet. We’re all sitting there, my friends and I, and in that two in a half second pause at the top of that first peak before it plummets and nosedives and twists and soars and plunges and spirals, I know there’s no getting off this thing. Heart pounding, mind sprinting, skin sweating, the wheels start turning. And then, as we begin the downhill coast, speed picking up, my hands release its sweaty death grip from the metal handles and I remember why I do this.
One week is what separates me from the biggest adventure of my life up to this point.
168 hours until my life changes completely and forever.
These 7 days that stand between me and August 17 are my two and a half second pause. That short amount of time where I think of any and every thing that could possibly go wrong. I could lose my luggage completely. I could hate being there. Terribly. I could get malaria. I could misjudge what I’ve signed up for and end up doing very poorly in my classes. The child that I am responsible for for three months not only could, but realistically may die.
But life and rides have something in common.
In those loops that always make my stomach ache and my head get a tension migraine, when I’m wishing this contraption would just hurry up and get to the end of the track so that I can get off, I realize this ride isn’t going to speed up for me. And in that moment when I’m on my back, hands as straight as they can go, shrieks of pure exhilaration echoing in unison with everyone else, wishing this flight would last forever, I realize this ride isn’t going to slow down for me.
I know there will be moments in the 14 weeks I’m gone when I wish I could get on a plane and get home. When all I want is to talk to my mom and hug my dad. When the only thing that will make me feel better is a Moose Tracks milkshake and snuggling with a blanket and my dog. I know there will be moments of pure bliss when I wish that this semester could just last forever. When I’m looking into sad eyes on faces of pure joy, finding my calling. When our team is singing and dancing to the beat of African songs, experiencing the kind of love for one another that God had intended for us to have towards each other all along from the beginning. When that baby of mine smiles when they see that our van has pulled up and reaches up to be held as we walk through the door.
I know I’m not the first to go through this experience or these feelings, and I’m certainly not the last. But it doesn’t keep the thoughts from scrolling like the credits of a movie on TV that are just trying to hurry up and get off the screen. I can’t even process them they come and go so quickly. But despite the worry and the doubt, I’m not getting off of this ride. Yes, I COULD lose my luggage. Yes, I COULD hate it. I highly doubt that I will, but I know I will have my moments. I COULD get malaria. I COULD do extremely poorly on assignments and tests. I COULD find myself with hands empty of a child by the end of November.
But I can’t rob this experience by spending this short pause that I have before the journey starts, thinking of the coulds.
I know these 3 and a half months will be full of moments.
Lots of peaks that I can’t see over. I won’t always know whether it’s a blessing that’s coming or a tragedy that’s barreling down the tracks.
All I know is that I’ve got three and a half months that aren't going to speed up nor slow down for me.
Three and a half months is what I have to embrace each experience. Reach out and touch faces. Grab hands and interlace fingers. Rock babies and sing with African Christians at a near shout to the same God that we mumble praises to here in the States. Three and a half months to discern if a long term lifestyle like this is my mission. Three and a half months to soak in every syllable, every touch, every second spent in God’s will. Soaking up every instant, of happiness and heartbreak, until this particular ride comes to a stop.
So I have to take advantage starting now in these 7 days.
I will seek peace starting now and I will seek peace this semester.
I will find moments to laugh this week as I pack and I KNOW I will laugh plenty this fall.
I will love the people around me now and I will relentlessly love the people of Africa.
Hands held as high as they can go, completely surrendered of control, thoughts of what could happen becoming replaced with the stimulating thrill of the moment, letting JEHOVAH-SHAMMAH, the Lord who is present, EL ROI, the Strong One who sees, EL-SHADDAI, God Almighty, remind me why I do this.