I like things organized, packaged, labeled. Thus, the obtaining of a label maker at Christmas has brought me great enjoyment. Greg says I have been through 100 feet of label tape already. I can’t comment on that, but I can say that I have labeled everything over the past few weeks – from electronics to toiletries, from tea and gifts to Valentine’s cards. I have labels on the teas that I plan to drink with tea-loving friends over the next year. I even have labels just to bring a smile – “Dr. Miller’s Computer” for example, in a house where both occupants are Dr. Miller. Having things packed, identified, ordered, brings me a lot of satisfaction.
Maybe that’s part of what is keeping me awake at nights. As I toss and turn at 3 am for the third day, I know it’s mostly jet-lag - my sleep-wake cycle has been through a lot. But I also wonder if my mind is fidgeting with the uncertainty of what comes next. We’re back in Malawi, a good and necessary first step. But things have changed since I left. I have no idea what might be my working hours, my job description, my new routine. Today Malawi with its intense second surge of COVID is different from the Malawi I left 3 months ago. Today, Nkhoma Mission Hospital is different than it was – new trainees, new staff, new buildings, new projects. And ministry opportunities with the Nazarene church are at a tipping point – will they grow and expand, or phase out naturally like so many other community health projects? Finally, I am different. Compared to two years ago, my understanding of my passion, calling, and direction is different.
I wonder if labels might help – a job title, a vision statement, an outline of a schedule with time on different activities or months in different areas. I wish I could have a map of the next several years, and I wouldn’t mind if it was already sub-divided into blocks of time by hour, that would be comforting and secure, packaged and labeled. Yet Africa isn’t like that. Missions isn’t like that. The Christian walk of faith isn’t like that, either. Instead, it’s one step at a time, trying to be faithful but not knowing what comes next. I think I know what I need to do. One or two meetings on Monday, another on Tuesday, a little more clarity and direction bit by bit.
In the weeks that come, I will probably continue to stare at my tea shelves, those beautiful packages with perfectly printed labels. I’ll let myself zone out at the structure and order and control. Maybe I’ll drink a warm cup of tea in my garden. And then I will start stepping forward into the areas of life that aren’t so orderly, into a future that requires more than a printed description to figure out…