Saturday, May 31, 2014

Packing my bags

Photo by Natasha Mileshina
I am going to be late for my flight to Ethiopia. I am standing in the hallway, bags in hand. The others are not ready, so I follow them into their rooms, nagging. "Let's go, let's go," I say. "We're going to miss the flight if we don't leave soon."

I am not entirely sure why I am going to Ethiopia. I haven't thought beyond making the flight.

We reach the airport, make it in the terminal, but my friends are lagging behind, and I press them again. "We need to get to the gate!"

A man passing by brushes my suitcase, and it falls open. There is nothing inside. I've forgotten to pack.

I run back home at saber-speed. I begin throwing clothes in the suitcase. More shoes, and sandals. It will be hot there. I might need a sweater or two. I empty my underwear drawer into the suitcase. My passport! Where is my passport? I am pretty sure I will be too late, I have already missed the flight, but I have to try. I keep dashing around, filling my bag. I don't have time to think if there is something else I've forgotten. This haphazard job will have to do.


My alarm goes off. For a moment I'm disoriented, frenzied. Then I breathe out, relief.

There's no flight to catch, no journey, no empty suitcase. Only eggs to cook and teeth to brush and a moment to sit still on the front porch, welcoming the day.


This is something of a recurring dream for me: rushing to catch a bus or train or plane, running into some essential obstacle.

The empty suitcase stays with me all day. I am rushing to get to seminary in two months, and maybe in all the commotion, my bags have not been packed. Maybe I do not have the experience or gifts or skills necessary for this. Maybe I have concentrated so much on getting to seminary that I don't remember why I'm going. Maybe I'm trying to cobble a cohesive theology and a vision and a plan together last-minute, without time to breathe it in, think it through.

I have had so long to prepare. For two years I have been looking ahead to this, standing in the doorway, ready to move. But I have not picked a track, a denomination. If I don't get it all figured out within a few months, I may not finish on time. I may not be eligible for a job when I graduate.

This is something of a recurring fear for me: wanting to have it all figured out lest I miss the boat, miss my chance to have an impact, to live fully into my gifts.

But there is no flight to catch at all. It is more of a long walk. God's love and guidance are available always, unscheduled, no security lines or last call for boarding. Mercy is new every morning, and life's callings are found on a winding path, not through a narrow door at the end of a straight terminal. In the journey we are all on, we pack as we go.

It is true, I am not prepared. I am not supposed to be. I am only supposed to be open, moldable, listening to the spirit, and willing. It is true, this summer as I embark, I am receiving a healthy blast of humility. I have also stepped intentionally into the good, challenging work of reflection. I am reaching down to a depth in myself that I haven't explored for months. I am remembering wisdom and yearnings that have been dormant for some time. I am refining, being refined.

I know I am called to witness to the great Love I have known in Jesus Christ. I know I am called to learn in the Duke community. If I am seeking to live and grow into these paths, it is enough for now. I may not know exactly where I will be arriving in three years--but the truth is I won't be arriving at all, only continuing to walk and live and learn and listen.

So there is no way I can be late.



  1. Love this. If we always want to just arrive, we will not enjoy the walk. I'm excited for you and the opportunities you have at Duke! Enjoy the journey, like I know you will.

  2. Wisdom seems to be a close friend. Keep walking. :)

  3. Kirsten OliphantJune 7, 2014 at 9:48 PM

    I really thought I already commented! But maybe the internet ate it. Visiting to check your layout and read this again. It stressed me out in your dream, which is a sign you wrote it well. Esp because it was the second time. :)

  4. Haha thanks! And thanks for your feedback and good tips on layout etc.