Our Collective Sigh of Longing

They say it is winter now but this doesn’t feel like anything I’ve ever known of winter. While others tug their scarves tightly around them the sweat still pools where my purse hits my shoulder. Maybe I’ll get accustomed to the tropical air before the real heat comes early next year. Getting used to the weather is one of the many things I seem to be waiting for these days, just weeks into life in this new country.

I’ve been pondering and praying about what it means to wait so much this year as we prepared to move and were confronted with delays and changes in our plans. When the wheels touched down on the tarmac in South Asia I thought much of our waiting had come to an end. I had no idea just how wrong I was.

I kick around these thoughts just like the stones that my feet break loose as I walk down the uneven path towards the market. I’ve walked this road a few times before but haven’t really been able to observe it. I’ve been watching the rickshaws I need to dodge, jumping as a horn alerts me to the presence of a car behind me. My eyes have been on my kids, making sure they dodge the stray dogs and keep away from the place where the sidewalk has a gaping hole. I’ve been negotiating every step. Today is my first day to the market by myself and I am finally able to slow down and relax into the walk, my thoughts slowing with me.

I navigate the aisles of products I don’t recognize, waiting to feel comfortable here. I pick up something to check the price and sigh. I don’t know how to read the labels yet so I hope this brand of powdered milk is okay. I wonder how long before I don’t feel like a toddler in this place – unable to understand simple words or cultural cues. I can’t grab as much as I need because I can only cart so much back down the dusty street on my own. I’ll wait to come back another time for that ironing board that’s a little too heavy. What’s a few more days with wrinkled clothes when we’ve been living out of a suitcase for months?

As I head back home with too-full bags bouncing off my hips, I take a moment to bask in my little victory. I made it to the store on my own and actually managed to find all the items I needed to cook dinner. My short-lived celebration fades as something inside whispers, “it’s a tiny step towards feeling at home somewhere new.” I know that voice well.

It’s the voice that reminds me I’m always waiting for something, never can seem to feel settled. When I was single, I just wanted to find someone to share life with. Then I couldn’t wait to start a family. Then it was a ministry, a job, a published piece, to be a regular contributor, that editor’s spot, to be back overseas. Why can’t I ever just be satisfied? I wonder if there’s something wrong with me, the way I live with this constant feeling like I can’t sit still or something important is going to pass me by. Or is this itch somehow a symptom of a greater waiting, a sign pointing towards an emptiness that can’t be filled in the here and now?

I watch others watching me as these thoughts race through my mind. I’m an oddity in the neighborhood but I know I shouldn’t worry about waiting for the stares to stop. My skin color is never going to allow me to fit in. I know millions of other people feel this way somewhere else all over the world. Maybe a million of them are in my city right now. Something stirs in me as I think of how none of us really fit in this broken place as we await a more perfect one. Maybe all this longing, this constant ache, is on purpose.

As I place myself squarely in the middle of more unknown than I’ve experienced before, I’m more aware of it than ever — our collective sigh of longing. The universal feeling of holding our breath as we wait to feel complete and to be finally…home.

We all wait all the time. No matter our country, no matter what we feel like we’ve figured out or achieved. We’re never satisfied. And I don’t think we were ever meant to be.

But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ. – Philippians 3:20, ESV

 

Nicole T. Walters

Nicole T. Walters

Though her roots run deep in the soil of the Southern United States, Nicole and her husband and two little ones are learning to love hot milk tea instead of sweet iced tea as they make their home in South Asia. She hopes to help others create space to listen to God and others and to lead lives that love over at nicoletwalters.com. She has authored essays in several books and her writing has appeared in places live CT Women, Relevant, and Ruminate. She is a regular contributor here at The Mudroom, SheLoves Magazine, and READY Publication and is a member of the Redbud Writers Guild.
Nicole T. Walters

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