When we came home from Ethiopia, I thought I would never feel normal again. I didn't want to feel normal again. As difficult as it was to wrestle through all that we had experienced there, I feared forgetting... I feared complacency stealing in, numbness dulling the disparity of Africa and home. I was split in two, so thankful for the comfort of this life that I had returned to, yet so afraid that comfort would lull us into forgetfulness.
I pray that I will never forget standing in the village of Durame and handing out granola bars and smarties to a crowd of children. I had agonized over what to bring to share in Ethiopia. We had packed protein-rich snacks and candy and dollar bills, and we didn't leave our hotel without our pockets and packs crammed full. And then, Durame...and the first pleading eyes we saw were this little boy's, with babe tied to his back, clothing tattered yet his grin sparkling. Suddenly my well-thought-out treats were nothing, and I knew they were nothing because even if I filled his belly, I would never be able to fix why he was hungry to begin with. How did I think that pockets filled with hard candy could ease his hurt...or mine? I felt so absolutely hopeless, and the tears come again now, with the remembering.
But there it is...the truth. I thought I would never forget. I thought that I would not ever turn on my tap or drive my car or go to the doctor or eat a meal without remembering Africa, without seeing that boy in Durame. But I am forgetting... I can grumble over my garbage disposal and tackle the mountain of laundry and fill my grocery cart with cookie-munching kiddos in tow and not think of the baby that spent all day on his brother's back. The memory is fading. The beautiful, shy smiles of the women at the fistula hospital, they are fading too. The licorice-black feet of the woman that had lost four sons of her own and carried our tiny babe to the orphanage, her praise-singing voice is muted now.
I write this because I don't want to forget. You will read The Hole in Our Gospel, and what you learn might keep you up at night. You might write a check...or start a journey toward a new normal. But, eventually, forgetfullness steals fervor. I was told on my return home that no one can continue to feel such intense emotion...that life would eventually settle, and that was a good thing. But I am wondering about the truth in that. Our God calls Himself the Father to the fatherless. If a child was hungry, thirsty, cold, alone...would a father ever forget? Ever? At one time, I could have said, "We knew nothing about this!" (Proverbs 24:12) But now we know. And you know, too. And so, tonight, I am praying this benediction again for you...and for me.
May God bless you with a restless discomfort about easy answers, half-truths, and superficial relationships, so that you may seek truth boldly and love deep within your heart.
May God bless you with holy anger at injustice, oppression, and exploitation of people, so that you may tirelessly work for justice, freedom, and peace among all people.
May God bless you with the gift of tears to shed with those who suffer from pain, rejection, starvation, or the loss of all that they cherish, so that you may reach out your hand to comfort them and transform their pain into joy.
May God bless you with enough foolishness to believe that you really can make a difference in this world, so that you are able, with God's grace, to do what others claim cannot be done.
And the blessing of God the Supreme Majesty and Creator, Jesus Christ the Incarnate Word Who is our Brother and Savior, and the Holy Spirit, our Advocate and Guide, be with you and remain with you, this day and forevermore. Amen.