In the corner of our boys’ room, there is a rolled up rug. It was woven in Uganda, and it’s got pink and cream and purple fleshed into its design.
And above our oven, there’s a white plastic canister with a red plastic lid, and it’s got groundnuts in it.
When I see that canister, I close my eyes and remember seeing those little plants growing up out of the African soil.
And every time I look at that rug, I remember our trip to Uganda in 2009, the research trip that my husband Travis and I embarked on with a hunger to see and understand someone in another part of our world.
I see Dunkan’s living room, his brick compound of a house and his tiny mother in her beautiful print dress, humbly gifting this homemade present to us.
I see him cutting the sugarcane and jackfruit with a handleless knife and I remember his shy smile, the way his white teeth flecked light from the sun.
The day I met Dunkan, I tried to hold on to the air, tried not to breathe too deeply so that the moment would last longer, so that I could cherish it forever.
I remember the day that I decided to sponsor him through Compassion International, the day I was only a teenager standing there, looking through faces in tiny rectangular packaging.
I told God then, “If I do this, you have to provide for me. If I do this, I need you to provide.”
And Dunkan went from being someone I’d never known to someone I had finally met to a family member whose picture hangs on our wall.
Dunkan is 18 years old now, and I’m a mother of two little boys, and God has always provided for both of us.
Today, He still provides, and I am reminded that the journey went from the blue carpet of my Baptist church to the dirt ground of Uganda, where I put my arm around him and saw his life spread out before me– two lives attached by a thin and holy string, two lives claimed by the grace and kindness of God.
It’s odd to think about making deals with God, to consider that this relationship is a give-and-take in so many ways.
Thomas Merton said, “Our vocation is not simply to be, but to work together with God in the creation of our own life, our own identity, our own destiny. We are free beings and children of God. This means that we should not passively exist, but actively participate in His creative freedom, in our lives, and in the lives of others, by choosing the truth. To put it better, we are even called to share with God the work of creating the truth of our identity.”
Sponsoring Dunkan when I was sixteen was the beginning of a new season of my identity, and God and I worked together every month to give a little something to this boy across the ocean.
And every month He was shaping another part of my identity, another part of Duncan’s identity, painting Himself in a new light for us both in this unexpected and magical relationship between two people who really needed each other and the Father.
He was someone God was real to, someone cherished and known and valued.
Knowing who God is means asking Him questions, asking questions of ourselves, stepping outside of what we know to embrace possibilities of servanthood and goodness.
There, we shape a new truth in ourselves, and there in my boys’ room I’m reminded of it every time I see that rolled up rug in the corner and every time I pass by the jackfruit piled up at the International Market.
God is real as He shapes my heart and my identity every single day, and He is real in the way He provides for me, and in the way He provides for Duncan.
You’ve always been a gift-giver. In the healing of your hands, in the spit and the dirt you used to work wonders, you were giving the essence of yourself to our humanity.
When you left us to be with the Father, you gave us Spirit, a chance to put fresh breath into our tired and weary lungs, the gift of someone speaking to, for, and with us in our quietest moments.
And in our humanness, you still pour gifts forth, in the ways we experience the sacredness of each other’s lives.
Thank you for cherishing us, thank you for teaching us how to cherish You.
Lead us to your throne, day after day after day, and then lead us back to each other, back to community, back to the gift-giving legacy you began in us so long ago. Amen.