Sometimes I lie awake at night and think of the future. Sometimes I can see it clearly painted across my ceiling, like a glowing landscape of stick-on stars, and the very thought of it thrills me. Sometimes, though, there is nothing on my ceiling except the crushing weight of the unknown, and fear keeps awake and wide-eyed deep into the night.
The future has always captivated me. I am drawn to the places I haven’t been, the people I haven’t met, the things I haven’t seen, the lives I haven’t lived. Yet, sometimes, I think I can get too caught up gazing into it, trying to find patterns in those stars on my ceiling. Unless we are gifted with prophesy, none of us can predict the future. The pictures I see on my ceiling at night are little more than my own imaginings. And while there is nothing wrong with dreaming, I always have to be careful not to let my own pictures get in the way of the masterpiece God is painting. That way, when the unknown future ends up being different than how I thought it would be, I am not too disappointed to see God’s hand in it – the beauty of His brushstrokes across the canvas of my life.
Therefore, when it comes to this trip to Africa, I have kept myself away from late-night imaginings as much as possible. Kenya is a great unknown – a culture and people and places vastly different from those that I’m used to – and I don’t want to draw false pictures, or build my hopes up on the wrong foundation.
Besides, so many unknowns can be terrifying at times.
I remember boarding a plane to the Philippines – the greatest unknown of my life – and trying not to paint pretty pictures on my ceiling at night of what I thought life there should be like. But back then, I found it difficult to stop creating expectations. The six months I spent there ended up being nothing like how I imagined they would be. At the time, I was saddened and frustrated about that, thinking that I might have made a mistake in going.
It was only after I looked back on the experience from my home in the States did I see that it had turned out better than I first expected. Harder, yes, but more enriching because of how much God taught me, and how close I grew to Him.
So now you see why when people ask me what I’m hoping to get out of my time in Kenya I shrug my shoulders. It’s not that I’m trying to be rude, or flippant. I honestly don’t know what Kenya is going to be like, or what I want out of the trip. I’ve consciously tried to keep myself from traveling down those roads every night because I don’t want my feeble human plans to get in the way of God’s work. I am facing down Kenya with a mind and heart open to just about anything.
Now, this doesn’t mean I’m not excited for Kenya. I’m thrilled and afraid, and I bounce back and forth between those two feelings almost constantly – like a yo-yo stuck in an endless loop of up and down, up and down, up and down. I just don’t want to morph it into something it isn’t meant to be or something less than it should be.
But, if I had to say one thing that I am hoping for in Kenya it would be this: that God would work a change in my life and heart and use me as a vessel to touch the lives of His children – fill me up until all they see is Him when they look at me, and how much He loves them.
One cannot ask for anything greater than that.