To Be Fearfully and Wonderfully Made
I’ve been in touch with two lifelong friends, folks I’ve known since childhood. Chosen family. Over the course of a week, they both happened to message me, informing me that they are in the midst of an unintelligible crisis on the home front. In one instance, a family member’s life was lost. In another, a loved one went missing and had been unreachable for 48 hours. And when I inquired about the state of their faith amidst it all, they both separately claimed that it was not only present, but more robust than before. It is like the crisis had augmented their capacity for belief in hope, like seeds with the capacity for drought-resistance faring better without water.
I grew up in Beltsville, but prior to COVID-19, I was living with my fiancé in Lagos, Nigeria. I love it there. Lagos translates to “lakes” in Portuguese. The mega city of 20+ million people on the coast of West Africa boasts a bevy of beaches, sands that my partner and I spend a lot of time on. Part of my love of Lagos is the year round warmth. Often, it’s in the 90s. And I’ve always been the type of person who flourishes in womb-like conditions. Now, I’m home in Beltsville during the winter, in the middle of a global pandemic, awaiting my fiancé who will soon fly over. It’s all quite humbling.
I’ve never liked the winter. But I’m realizing it’s because I never had the right clothes on. These days I wake up and check the weather, finding a forecast ranging between 30s and upper 40s, if I’m lucky. Based on those degrees and a cursory glance out my bedroom window, I get dressed in the number of layers that seem most appropriate for what’s to come.
Long johns are a godsend. This deserves stating. Perhaps, I never wore them when I was younger because I was invested in “fashion” and feeling cool. Now, I’m much more invested in feeling warm. So, I put on my long johns, the tops and bottoms. I dither between sweatpants or spandex to wear over top of them. One pair of socks or two? Fur-lined boots or rain-proof wellies? Mitten gloves or the ones that separate out your fingers? A scarf or none at all? A windbreaking zip-up or a full-on coat? The options delight me.
And once I’m outside and a few steps into my morning walk, I find out whether I did it right. Do I feel warm enough? Will my body survive this season of life? This whole ritual of matching my insides with what’s outside resounds in my ears when I reflect on a text exchange with my best friend of 18 years, when she tells me she lost her brother suddenly and relatedly that her “faith is strong”: “You can be a thermometer or a thermostat.” She writes. One tells the temperature, and one sets it —I quickly do the math in my head.
“The whole point of faith is having peace thru it all…we gotta choose to receive that peace because it’s not like it automatically kicks in. We gotta set the thermostat for it.”
My other beloved friend tells me that she’s juggling the emotional turmoil of waiting to hear back from or news of her missing family member, that alongside watching the preparations for a change of government in the USA. Strange times.
A lesson I learned in my plant medicine class in Lagos included the following: there is this concept of peristalsis. It is what our organs do to move food + nutrients + waste through our digestive system. Google it and find this incredibly poetic and apt description, that "Peristalsis is a radially symmetrical contraction and relaxation of muscles that propagates in a wave down a tube...."
Meaning our bodies are literally made for holding conflicting “radically symmetrical” movements. Could one ever mistake this as random?
Bearing witness to people whose faith rises in the face of uncertainty and trauma allows me to see that God is rigorously at work. And that he built these internal levers to activate a level of joy and peace that can only specifically follow episodes of being mangled up by the world, over and over, again.
There are no real words to fathom this. What a world we live in. What a world.