I’m leaving South Asia.
Not until August. I’ve got about six more months. But those six months will be spent traveling around like a vagabond – living out of a suitcase and duffel bag in guest houses and other people’s spaces. I’m leaving my home at the end of March. Most of my things will go into storage.
I started packing this week. Stripping decorations off the wall and stuffing “nonessentials” into suitcases and plastic bags. I hope they’ll keep out the dust and mold of storage for the next nine months.
It’s a bit shocking, honestly, to reduce my home back to a house – stripping it of the photos, curtains, candles, and other decorations I slowly collected to make these two rooms feel like mine. It’s disconcerting to see how much of my beloved stuff falls into the “nonessential” category.
Two friends came over last night and their first comments were on how empty my house looks. Even the clock is gone off the wall.
Just like it did when full of photos and stacks of work – my house reflects how I’m starting to feel. Barren.
I look at my neighbor and her beautiful two boys and wonder about opportunities I’ve missed to connect with them, befriend them, see life a little bit more from their perspective. I look at the set of chai cups I recently bought and regret I haven’t had a group of people over large enough to use all six (though we’ve used them in twos and threes aplenty!). I push aside the introvert’s call to a day alone because I remember that soon these beloved people will not be a two-minute walk away.
I try to cheer myself by thinking of where I’m going at the end of these six months. Home. My first home, anyway. Back to the people who remember my first stumbles into ministry, work, adulthood. My parents, my sister, my grandma, my dog.
But that only leaves me feeling more barren. Because it’s been two years. Life there has changed too. I return to friends who’ve lost parents, jobs, children. There will be places in church pews tellingly empty. There will be new faces, new spots filled, people whose names I’ve only heard. Relationships forged of which I have no part. I have missed out on the grieving and rejoicing of people dear to me. Will I even know them? Will they know me?
Like my house – I feel as though I increasingly have nothing to offer. Barren. Vacant. Achingly, echoingly empty.
For some reason, as coffee mugs disappear into quilt folds, my thoughts have turned to Lent. The season of emptiness. Of loss. Of grief. Of sorrow.
I think of the disciples watching helplessly as Jesus marches to His gruesome death. Even though they don’t know exactly what He’s talking about – I don’t think they were so dense as to not sense something outside their desire and control was coming.
I think of Jesus – a month, three weeks, two weeks left – knowing all that is coming. Never were the words of Philippians 2 more vividly lived out by Him as He “emptied Himself” and “humbled Himself”. As He prayed “not my will, but yours” – surrendering who He was to what was to come. To the divine will.
We always rush ahead, don’t we? To the Resurrection, to the new life bursting through tomb’s rock walls, coursing through our new, spiritual veins. But empty houses and Lent remind us to stop and savor our own emptiness. To roll around our barrenness like a hard, sour candy in our mouth. To make us mourn our regrets and failures. To make us rejoice in our weaknesses. It reminds us that anything good that has come out of this home, these objects, the time passed here has not been of us.
It couldn’t have been.