The first time was a surprise. Everyone was out of the office, so I decided to put on some music. With Malawi’s high data costs, I wasn’t really supposed to be streaming, but a band I liked had released a new EP. The empty office turned out to be more important than I thought. I sat enraptured as I listened to See the Love, by The Brilliance. The collection is a lament for all the pain, hate, and brokenness so overwhelmingly big and dark, and a cry for peace and love across difference. I found tears falling as I saw that pain reflected in my daily experience in Malawi.
The second time was embarrassing. I volunteered a kids club at my church in Lilongwe, and we finished the year by watching The Prince of Egypt. I was near the front, in charge of distributing popcorn refills to a crowd of kids crammed three to a desk in a stuffy classroom. I hadn’t seen this movie for years and found myself drawn into Moses’ journey. When Moses met God at the burning bush, I felt overcome by his sense of wonder.
Moses takes off his shoes and brings God all his excuses. “How can I stand up against all this evil? Who will listen to me?” Flames burst and Moses is drawn up into the light, reminded of God’s power and purpose. I shall be with you, Moses.
Moses goes home and shares his vision with his wife (more tears). I tried not to let the ten-year-olds see me but they kept coming up for more popcorn, oblivious to the drama before them. In Malawi, lonely and displaced, my emotions were always a little closer to the surface. As I sat watching God give Moses a mission to accomplish, I realized how much I longed for the same: to be awed by God’s power and drawn up into his purpose.
You can probably guess the last time. If you’re reading this, there’s a good chance you were there. I stood under a tree on a sunny summer morning, the dappled light covering a crowd of smiling friends. I turned to see a woman in a white dress with flowers in her hair. No tears came in that moment, but inside, the feeling was the same: drawn up in light, lost in the glory of it all. Here were hope and purpose.
There were other times, too. Some are forgotten, and some are not yet right for sharing. But these three somehow sum up what 2016 was for me. It was a year where pain and hopelessness became deep and personal. It was a year I cried out in loneliness, longing for God to show me his plans. It was a year of joy as moments of truth and intimacy filled my life like dappled sunlight. This year I cried when I saw glimpses of home.