I find myself endlessly fascinated by the threadlike way our stories tie together, pulling us all into a grand scheme like swatches stitched to quilt. I feel so stuck inside my own mind sometimes, so isolated from the blooming world around me. I see a story dance like flames behind someone’s eyes and I want nothing more this side of heaven than to be part of it, to know the details of it as I know my own. But, I am often met at the end of the day with the reality that we’re all lost—or at least all have the capacity to be—in worlds that end at our screens. I, myself, can be found reaching for that pocket-sized distraction in an attempt to get lost and hide from something I’m afraid to face.
But I’m hungry for connection, for those small places in time where I’m drawn up out of myself and can relate to something bigger. I chase it. I yearn for it. It seems as though my entire life has been a quest for connection: connection to those around me, to God, to myself.
Still processing all of the things I experienced while in Ghana, I feel I will never have enough time or words to express it all. But if I can settle on an emotion, a happening, a spiritual reckoning, it would be this: connection. From the time our team stepped off the bus and was greeted by hugs to the time we said goodbye and were sent off with prayer, I felt connected to something limitless.
I felt connected to humanity.
Through sitting on the back steps preparing okra for dinner, playing tag and soccer and a game of spoons, and all the times I was invited to come play, to come help with homework, to come talk. The time spent sitting on the floor with them as they taught me how to make bracelets, talking about husbands and wedding days and what we wanted to do with our lives. The discussions we had about the things we love to do, the things that make us feel discouraged, the things that make us happy.
I don’t know why I feel so surprised when I find out how connected we are. After all, we are all made in God’s image, are we not? He has touched with his hands the soil of what makes us who we are and we each reveal a divine piece of our multi-faceted creator.
I felt connected to the present.
There is a quote I heard while there, and it sits with me like a profound gift:
Americans have watches; Ghanaians have time.
It was a beautiful break from my rushed and flurried world of trying to get to the next right thing. It was a graceful process of being in a space without my phone, without an agenda; lost in a free-form stretch of time where the only thing to worry about is what is right in front of you.
I felt connected to meaning.
Purpose, meaning, and fulfillment filled my days like a healing balm, filling up holes in me I didn’t know were there—or, maybe did know were there but kept dismissing. I felt a refocus, a realignment with the things in life that truly matter, the things that I truly desire. Feeling more like myself than I have in a long time, feeling God working in my own giftedness and design. It felt like a resettling, a coming home. Like waking up to the things God placed in you, like something important that you have forgotten finally catching a wave and rising in the tide to remind you. A resonating “yes” in the corridors of your soul where you’ve too long settled for “okay, that’s fine.” A re-imagining of what life could be, lacking all the carnage of business and materialism and full of the colors of simplicity, family, and joy.
I felt connected to community, to hope, simplicity, beauty, and peace. And now that I am home, I reflect on all of this and I feel connected to gratitude. I am grateful beyond words that I got to have that experience, to have gotten to meet everyone that I encountered, to experience God in a new way—one that is not American. I am grateful for the opportunity to see that love, beauty, and the world are all bigger than I could possibly imagine. I’m grateful for the stretching of character, the expanding of space, and the widening of perspective.
I am so incredibly full and overjoyed with the experience of celebrating differences and feeling comforted by similarities. Connection is powerful enough to heal us, awe us, captivate us, and humble us. Connection is what Jesus died to give us: connection to God and to each other. We crave it, we need it, we’re built for it; the world’s unending tragedies are often the result of a lack of it.
This side of the Atlantic, I pray with a heart full of love and gratitude, a heart that’s grown—stretched by the power of connection, never to go back to a smaller form. Just like Oliver Wendell Homes, Jr. once said, “A mind that is stretched by a new experience can never go back to its old dimensions,” I pray I step boldly into the new dimensions I feel. May what I felt connected to there, thrive here, and may my daily posture be of Isaiah: Here I am, send me.
To learn more about the Pearl House and how you can help “Give hope a home,” go to http://www.thepearlhouse.org