ndI was recently forced to participate in one of those "getting to know you activities," you know... the kind where you say your name and a few pertinent facts about yourself and then usually have to answer one other additional question. Thankfully, for this mostly introverted individual, that additional question wasn't too embarassing or revealing - it was:
"What is your favorite animal?"
When my kids ask me that question, it is usually part of a debate... or argument... and someone is wanting to prove their "superiority" (not sure why favorite animals count in that way, but with kids, just about anything is possible). In other words, they win if their favorite animal is closer to Mama's favorite animal. So, I usually teasingly tell them that their daddy is my favorite animal... they get all embarassed, giggle and the tensions dissipate.
Really, though, that's a pretty easy question for me - my favorite animal has been, for a very long time, the dolphin. As we were playing this get to know you game, however, I was interested -although not surprised- by the fact that many of the women chose the giraffe as their favorite animal. I guess I wasn't surprised because if I had to pick my favorite West African animal, it would be, without any doubt, the giraffe.
Generally, giraffes don't make the top ten in favorite animal lists. Maybe they are too gentle and sedate. Perhaps they are so awkward and bizarre-looking that no one can really call them graceful or majestic, even though they really are. They spend most of their time wandering around eating acacia leaves or resting, although I'll never forget the story of a curious giraffe poking its head in the doorway of a local lady's hut early one morning. When a spat arises between two members (usually young males) of the herd, they whip each other with their necks and heads. It doesn't really seem like the best way to fight or wrestle. Giraffes are also often the brunt of jokes- a frequent novelty, but even in parables and proverbs, they aren't taken too seriously.
W. Africa's only remaining free roaming giraffe herd lives a short drive southeast of Niamey. In the mid 1990s, it was estimated that fewer than 100 giraffes remained and since then, a significant conservation effort has been made. That latest estimates I heard from the guides put the giraffe population approaching 300. Last summer, when we took my sister and niece out to see the herd, the very first giraffe we saw was a pregnant female who'd left the herd, and according to our guide, had returned to the place of her own birth for the impending arrival of her baby giraffe.
It is sad, however. These absolutely unique and amazing creatures used to freely roam from the Atlantic Coast of modern day Senegal across the Sahel and into present day Chad (roughly 2000 miles); now, at "the dawn of the 21st century, their world [has] shrunk to a tiny zone southeast of the capital, Niamey, stretching barely 150 miles."
The giraffes themselves cannot recognize what they've lost. They don't know anything different. But I know that they could... and I feel sad, and a little bit angry... because they are stuck, wandering somewhere in between...
Yes, I'm projecting my human emotions on an animal.
Why? Because I guess I've spent much of the past 9 months feeling just that way... wandering somewhere in between... in between possibility and potential, past and future, stuck waiting and while striving to continue obeying and ministering... and yet knowing humanly, the future is totally in the hands of someone else.
I'm reading a book called The Land Between: Finding God in Difficult Transitions - and the following paragraph smacked me right in between the eyes!
"For many of us, the journey into the Land Between comes suddenly... with a conversation that drops into our lives like an exploding bomb.
- “Your position has been eliminated.”
- “I don’t love you anymore.”
- "The tumor is malignant.”
- “The church elders are meeting to take a vote of confidence.”
- “Mom, Dad, I’m pregnant.”
- “I’m having second thoughts about the wedding.”
- “Dad, uh…I’m at the police station.”
- “Your mother and I are getting a divorce.”
- “We’re moving.”
- “We think Mom’s had a stroke. How soon can you get to the hospital?”
In a sentence we are ripped from normality and find ourselves in a new world, as if thrown from a moving train. We tumble into the world of the unemployed. We are hurled into the land of the suddenly single, the valley of the grieving, the new vocabulary of chemotherapy, or the weekly routine of nursing home visits. In our more confident, faith-filled moments, we know that we will regain our footing and find some kind of balance in a new normal, but for now we are simply and suddenly “between” and at a loss as to how to navigate the terrain. While some enter the land shockingly, others experience a gradual, almost imperceptible entry... A marriage suffers slow but constant erosion over the years before somebody walks out. The heart of a teenager drifts slowly away from her parents and from God. Key employees are released and assets are sold off as sales figures dip steadily quarter after quarter until the company is only a shadow of what it had been eight years earlier. A parent experiences gradual memory loss, and with it her independence fades little by little. Many of us entered the Land Between not with a sudden cataclysmic conversation but with the slow march of time. And yet regardless of how we enter this space, whether jarringly or gradually, the landscape is much the same..."
"The Land Between can be profoundly disorienting. It also provides the space for God to do some of his deepest work in our lives. Many seasoned spiritual advisers propose that this is the only space in which radical, transformational growth occurs. God intends for us to emerge from this land radically reshaped. But the process of transformational growth will not occur automatically. Our response to God while in the Land Between is what will determine whether our journey through this desert will result in deep, positive growth or spiritual decline. People often quote a common proverb in time of pain and tragedy: 'Time heals all wounds.' I do not find this statement to be necessarily true. Some people heal over time, while others become deeply embittered and acidic. The Land Between usually forces us to choose one way or the other. The conditions can prove so harsh that there seems little room for neutrality. While offering us a greenhouse for growth, the Land Between can also be a desert where our faith goes to die—if we let it. The habits of the heart that we foster in this space—our responses and reactions—will determine whether the Land Between results in spiritual life or spiritual death. We choose."
Manion, Jeff (2010-07-14). The Land Between: Finding God in Difficult Transitions, Zondervan. Kindle Edition. (Italics and bold added by me.)
this week's gratitude list
(#s 2066 - 2092)
Brendan is home!
Just in case you didn't catch it, Brendan is home!
He traveled safely with friends several hundred miles in three different countries over some terrifyingly bad roads and came through it all safe and sound
He saw the ocean - and said "It's big!"
He had the opportunity to tour one of the Mercy Ships
Listening to him talk about climbing the mountain for a private Easter morning service/devotional with the famiy he was visiting
sitting on the waterbed, kids piled all around, AC running, watching videos projected on the wall
watching m&m watch the skit at the Easter Sunrise service - and seeing her questionning looks directed back towards me
tabouleh for dinner when outdoor temps spike over 115'
lessons from Job
new books that FINALLY downloaded at least to my Kindle for PC... now just one step further to actually get them on my kindle
finding Mt Dew again in town - 'cause it make my guy happy
listening to the soundtrack from "Somewhere in Time" over and over again
medication-induced super sound sleep
Andi's first encounter with malaria was a gentle one
almost finishing organizing the bookshelves
waiting for an expected email
sorting and piling, getting ready for upcoming garage sales
listening to old Boubacar's thanks for what most would consider a pile of junk
Easter Sunday afternoon at the pool... for several hours (thermometer read 120+ that day)
still having enough bottles of sunscreen
most recent power outage was simply a breaker blown
the beauty of wild giraffes
the fact that I've been to see those giraffes several times
this truth: it is my choice when I feel a bit lost, wandering in between- growth or bitterness