What compels me?

Posted on January 18, 2012


By Clarissa

I’m sitting here looking over piles of books to be sold on Amazon and bags of clothes for the local thrift store. In the next room are eight industrial strength plastic bins. A few days ago some strangers walked out of our living room with my favorite recliner leaving me standing there with a few twenties and the melodramatic thought, “As long as I live, I will never find another comfortable chair again. Ever.”

I am not suffering. Actually the purging is quite freeing(like what I imagine it would feel like to run about in mountain meadow wearing a white linen dress). However, in the midst of the bustle of getting rid of most our stuff—and cataloguing and packing the rest—entire days can careen by without a thought as to why we are doing this. I mean, I know WHY. I can give you the canned answer. The one that, though not intended to be rehearsed, somehow is what I tend to tell people when they ask why we are moving to Nairobi, Kenya.

Especially now, I need to remind myself of what compels me. Why Africa? A rolodex of snapshots flutter through my head. Beautiful smiles bursting out of dark faces. Sprawling savannah speckled with acacia trees. Toothless old women selling avocados nearly the size of my head. Red dust airstrips cut like scars, inviting itty bity airplanes to land and bring goods and passengers.  These images draw me, like some sort of seductive drug, alluring me to return to this place, at least to visit. And then when I have had my fill—experienced my high—I can return and have my Spokane life back again. Complete with four seasons, clean sidewalks, safe city parks and Trader Joes.

But I don’t just want to visit. I want to move there. So what is it that compels me? What is stronger than the allure of my mental rolodex? At the risk of being the caught in the net of cliche, my answer is love. This is not some ephemeral wisp that ripples through my being leaving me with the compulsion to grasp the hand of a stranger and sing Lennon’s Imagine.  No, this kind of love has an eternal source and as such, it is a powerful fountain rushing up and gushing over anyone who would draw near to it. In plain language, it is Christ. The awareness that I am fully known and still unwavering loved by God compels me to want to know and love the people behind the beautiful smiles. What makes them smile, and when they are sad, what makes them sad. I want to know the woman with no teeth selling avocados. Who are her children, and what does she find joy in? Is her life full of hope or despair?

Our path is a long one. We leave Spokane in two weeks to head to orientation in North Carolina. We will not actually be in Kenya until July. This seems distant, though I know that in the span of life, it will be short.  I often think of these next few months as the prologue to our story of living in Kenya.

I am under no illusion that moving to Kenya will be some romantic Out of Africa adventure. I know it will be incredibly difficult at times. Culture, language, traffic, poverty and I’m sure a host of other surprise obstacles with threaten to undo me…but now, as I comfortably sit in our nearly empty apartment, I can look to the future and pray that those things will only  thrust me back to the fountain to remember that true joy is not circumstantial but the result of knowing I am loved. Irrevocably, unendingly loved.