So far, March hasn’t been the best month of my life. I am behind on writing my next book — and it’s not for lack of trying. The story just needs to steep longer and my subconscious needs time to unravel the knots in the narrative. So anyway, the pub date got pushed back to Fall 2017.
While my agent and publisher have been incredibly gracious, encouraging and supportive, it’s the first time in my academic or writing career where I missed a deadline.
Then, I had an encounter with someone I cared about deeply, and though it wasn’t their intention, I came out of it feeling deeply rejected and deeply wounded.
There’s a monastery in the small town in Arkansas where I’m living for the next month as the author-in-residence. Yesterday I walked there. I took in the beauty of the trellis with the roses that are just about to bloom, the daffodils, the pebble-lined labyrinth and the pond.
I spent more than an hour sitting by that pond in the late afternoon sunlight, realizing that I have to make a choice. It’s not enough to just use words, to just repeat verses and things I believe to be true about God.
I actually have to redirect my heart in one of two directions: Either I can let the things that have been bothering me lead me to be anxious, doubtful, resentful and less-than and I distance myself from God. Or, I can actually live out the truth that God is good, that God withholds no good thing, that, as Spurgeon said, If there was any better situation for me to be in right now, Divine Love would have put me there.
It helps that I’ve been through this before. That I’ve experienced deep pain, doubt, loss and darkness — especially when I was going through my cancer treatments and my whole world fell apart. It helps to remember back to how I felt in that dark place, and how, when I moved to Portland as a bald, scarred, bruised, broken mess of a girl, when I thought my life was over, the new narrative God was writing in my life was just beginning.
Because a short while after I moved to Portland, I met adorable Somali sisters on the train one afternoon….and it completely changed my life (and theirs!)
This week, something that I’ve been waiting on for three years finally happened. One of the Somali sisters (the middle one, Sadaka, who was 6 years old when I first met her) finally mastered English well enough to read the book I wrote about them. She finished The Invisible Girls this week and sent me a note yesterday.
“Sahara, I love your book. It made me cry because it was so beautiful. We miss you so much and we love you very much.”
Well, her words made me cry, too.
And they infused me with hope, because I remembered how, when I was discouraged and lost, God knew exactly what he was doing, and even though I didn’t know it and couldn’t see it at the time, Divine Love was leading me from the east coast to Portland, putting me in the very best situation I could be.
As I sat at the pond yesterday, I thought about the recent disappointments and doubts. And then I thought about Sadaka’s note, about my precious Somali girls, about the book and all the opportunities I’ve had because of it.
I thought about how I tell the story now. That I had cancer, my whole world fell apart, and then……
Yesterday I turned my heart back over to God. I let go of the broken expectations and hopes I’ve been holding onto.
I decided, like the priests in the Old Testament, to step into the sea that hasn’t parted yet. To live into the discomfort of the narrative the way it is right now, waiting for the moment when God does something amazing, waiting until I can tell the story, “and then….”