Luke 1:46-55 “And Mary said, ‘My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has looked on the humble estate of his servant. For behold, from now on all generations will call me blessed; for he who is mighty has done great things for me, and holy is his name. And his mercy is for those who fear him from generation to generation. He has shown strength with his arm; he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts; he has brought down the mighty from their thrones
and exalted those of humble estate;
he has filled the hungry with good things,
I and the rich he has sent away empty.
He has helped his servant Israel, in remembrance of his mercy, as he spoke to our fathers, to Abraham and to his offspring forever.‘
“Vanessa’s already working on plans A, B, through Z. Me? I’m trying to memorize the details of her face like it’s the first time I’m seeing it…..or the last” -Wade Wilson – Deadpool
(I know, Deadpool and the Virgin Mary in one post, but I think it’ll make sense.)
If you were to ask my friends, or family to describe me, I’m certain you’d receive a plethora of both positive and negative words, but I assume the words flexible and adaptable would be two of those words.
These traits have made acclimating to social situations in Rwanda fairly easy. If things start later than expected, oh well, it happens. If I’m at an event an hour later than I wanted to be, oh well, I obviously needed to be there for some reason. If more/fewer people show up to an event than expected, oh well, we’ll find a way to make things work. If someone loses track of time and I’m late for another engagement, it’s normally okay.
I assist in teaching a entry level English course at a local university, which is supposed to start at eight in the morning but doesn’t truly start until eight-thirty. Students continue to trickle into the classroom as late as ten. The teacher doesn’t shame them for being tardy, she doesn’t deduct points from them, or give them any kind of punishment. She simply acknowledges them subtly and continues to teach. Before she dismissed the class for break she told them to meet back in the classroom by ten-forty with Unites States timeliness but she knows the class will not start again until later than that.
Situations like this are fairly common in Rwanda and I’ve noticed that people are very generous with their reactions here. That is not not normally my experience in the United States.
In the states people are so deadline oriented and time sensitive. It is perfectly normal to tell someone you have to stop your conversation with them because you have to go to another appointment, no matter how deep, or good that conversation is. It’s also pretty common to try and cram spending time with people you love somewhere in the crazy schedule that you’ve created for yourself. For some reason, this has become normal, and I know I’ve done it from time to time.
You see, I am guilty of this, but in a way that is a quasi mix of Rwandan culture and the culture of The United States. You may not know it but, I kind of secretly plan things. Maybe not fully plan, but deeply hope for things then begin to plan them. I don’t do this with day to say tasks or events normally. Those pretty much come in the spur of the moment based on my inclinations or on what seems to be a good thing to do, unless there is something I absolutely have to get done. This frustrates most of my family members, and will continue to frustrate them when I get back. My day to day planning seems pretty in keeping with what I’ve experienced in this culture, yet I still do plan. My planning is far in the future for things that may never happen and may not even be worth planning for because they’ll happen naturally.
These plans normally come about because I get excited or nervous of what the future might look like and I want to think I have some control over what it’ll look like, or how it’ll come about, even though I really don’t.
I had to come face to face with the fact that even though I could try to plan my future both the things that excite me and the things that make me nervous, it might be better for me to look at someone, an experience, or a situation and try to memorize the details as if it’s the first time I’m seeing them. I don’t have to have all of the details sorted out for what I’ll do with whomever or how long I’ll be wherever for however long.
I embody both aspects of this quote and I didn’t even realize it until recently. I remember, before I left for Rwanda, I had an experience that I knew I would vividly remember for probably the rest of my life, but I wanted to make sure I never forgot it. This was an experience that came from a spur of the moment request, but I didn’t know that the outcome would impact me so greatly. In that moment, “I was trying to memorize the details of the person’s face like it was my first time seeing them…or the last.” I decided when I got back to my parent’s house to write down every last detail from that moment so it would be something I could hold onto and know I’d never let go of it. I was trying to jot down all of the details because although I might never forget the moment, I also never want to forget the emotions attached to that moment.
In Rwanda I’ve realized I plan more than I probably should. I’ve been accepted to graduate school, which I won’t be attending for eight more months, I’ve had people ask for me to make a list of thing I want to do when I get back in a little over six months, I’ve thought about where I’ll live, different jobs, what life might look like, if I’ll be able to adjust, if people will become frustrated with my confusion around things that have changed since I’ve been gone, and the list could probably go on.
I haven’t planned responses to each of these questions or situations, but they have popped in my mind.
It makes me think of the obedience of Mary. She didn’t know she’d be carrying Jesus, she didn’t know what the pregnancy would look like, and she didn’t know what his life would look like entirely, but she was obedient (graciously so in my opinion). She knew he’d die and that he’d rise again, but the pieces in between his birth, death, and resurrection weren’t things she knew fully. I like to believe that even though she knew the end, she didn’t let that hinder the way she lived her life.
I think I could learn from this in the moments when I’m like Vanessa. It could cause me to have more Wade like moments. Even though I do know this experience will end, I don’t have to have all of the answers for what my world will look like when this ends. I also can take time to not focus on the ends, but rather focus on the details of various moments and take the time to find more things that I might hold onto forever.
(This was a note etched in the back of a classroom. It says, “Why I am still alive? For God’s purpose.” I don’t know why this hit me but it kinda made me think about going with the flow and following along even if I don’t know the full plan.)