The plane pulls onto the runway. I imagine the pilot flipping switches, pushing red buttons, pulling levers. The engines rubble. We begin to move. Faster. Faster Faster. Lift… We’re flying.
Oh how I love the sky! As a child my wish was to fly like Peter Pan, dipping into the clouds, brushing my hands through waterfalls. (I don’t think that’s really changed.) In reality, an airplane is the closest I can get to clouds & blue infinity.
I look out my window. The dust & bush of Africa has been replaced with plains of clouds shadowed with grays, purples, & blues. They gently roll into the blinding bright distance creating a land of their own. I hold back the urge to jump out of the plane & let pixie dust & happy thoughts lift me into the air.
I know it would work. There are so many happy thoughts this morning I could fly for hours. Rachel singing at church. The beauty of the Rwenzori. A perfect rainstorm with hot chocolate & guitars. Conversations in South Sudan. My last night in Uganda watching the sun set over Lake Victoria with a cup of coffee in my hands. The cold weather of London (I had 1 hour of winter!). And a hotel with hot showers, flushing toilets, & succulent food. Spain…
Surprisingly, I am at rest right now. The expected grief of leaving Africa is absent. I think it’s because I know I’ll be back. In an odd way, I felt more at home walking down the dirt roads of Nyahuka & squatting in a chow than I do in Alabama or Mississippi. I hate goodbyes, so I didn’t give Africa one, but simply said “I’ll see you later.”
I pull my Daily Light from my bag & open to today’s reading. The recent prayers of my heart stare back at me in scripture form:
The paths of the Lord. I am on such a path on an ancient map as large as the world. The dots of my journey cross lands & seas, but the dashes of my future appear only moment by moment. I am on a lifetime adventure, or really in the middle of one that has been going since creation. I have Truth as a compass & the Counselor as a guide.
I am following the steps of a grander Adventurer. One who crossed the seas & calmed them. One who cast down the enemy, who was not stopped by mere sickness. One who saw the warning “Here There Be Monsters” but ignored it. This Adventurer was perfect in every way. He was a Prince in love with a princess imprisoned by a dragon, desperate for a rescue. His love was perfect & selfless & He crossed the chasm of death for the sake of His beloved. He fought the fiercest battle the world has ever seen & sacrificially died so the princess could be freed. But nothing can stop True Love. Death’s claws could not hold Him. The Prince killed the dragon & ascended from the darkness of dungeons to the light of His kingdom, where He now waits for His bride.
And the princess has her own story. Since being freed from the dragon, the princess wonders over the map, following the love song of the Prince she hears in her heart. The swamps she crosses & beasts she battles strengthen her hands & mold her heart. She senses His presence guiding her to His kingdom. She trusts His leading, but longs for His physical presence. Nights she spends writing love letters in her heart, & days she dreams about her future wedding. With each passing mile she travels, though she does not see it herself, her heart becomes softer & more beautiful. It begins to take the shape of the Prince.
The rare part of this tale is that the ending we already know. One day, after the map’s face is decorated by colorful dashes of voyages & battles, the Prince will rise from His thrown & come for the princess. After years of waiting & wondering, she will at long last be swept up into His powerful arms filled with love. He’ll hold her tender face gently in His hands & bend low for the kiss. In that one moment, a wave so powerful, so immense words cannot describe it will rush over the princess, taking her breath & wits. She will look down to find her tattered traveler’s clothes replaced by a shimmering white gown. She’ll look at her hands & arms glowing with newness. The scars of battles gone. She’ll look down at her reflection in the sea of glass & stand in awe at the splendor He has bestowed on her. Then the Prince, now King, will take His bride’s hand & lead her into His new kingdom, a place she faintly recognizes as if she once had been there in a dream but at the same time such magnificence, perfect beauty & artistry are unimaginable. And there He sweeps her up onto His white stallion to take her away, for their adventures together have only just begun.
And, of course, like any good tale, they live happily ever after.