Monday, June 18, 2012

Permanent

Scars
Tattoos
Bleach stains
Honey
"Black Box"
Styrofoams and plastics

The list could go on, but it would still be very short.
There are few things that are irreversable and permanent. In most cases, although something cannot be reversed, it can still be changed. Scars can be altered with plastic surgery, tattoos are even 'reversable' to an extent- or at least a new tattoo put over the unwanted one. Bleach stains, while they cannot be washed out, might become fashionable in a few years. Honey is the only known food that will never go bad, not even after hundreds of years.

One of the permanent things in my life are tattoos. I have three- a tree on my ankle, a sun on my back, and a quote on my arm. The quote is in Amheric, and states "I belong to God."
It is from Isaiah 44, where God tells his servant that he has called him by name, that he will be with him from generation to generation and his descendants will change their name to Israel and some will even tattoo on their arms, "the Lord's".
I wanted it in another language besides English, for the artistry of it. I wanted it to look beautiful, and I have a prejudice against English; I don't think it looks beautifully written.
Then I considered getting it done in Biruk's language, Amheric. It had significant meaning, and I was learning the language anyway, so it was fitting. I had Biruk write it out for me, and then his father, a former teacher and school administrator looked it over to ensure everything was gramatically correct and spelled the right way.

Over the past three years, alot of things have changed. My address changed three times. I changed countries, became an official immigrant. I got married. I opened a business. I graduated college, I started a carreer.
My titles continue to change or get additions: student, wife, daughter, friend, sister-in-law, intern, employee, immigrant, etc.
A while ago, I faced a very difficult decision. Some of the titles define who I am, dictate my entire life, my future. To do - or not do - this or that could change ME. Was I willing for that change? Did I want to put one of those titles, one of those interactions at stake?
For a while, based on those descriptions, I avoided making a decision. I rested in "this is who I am and I cannot change it" and believed it was the right thing to do. Just give it time. Just wait a little longer. I reminded myself of my title, encouraged myself to fill the expected role as best I could.

But then, one day, as I prayed, I looked down at my arm.
"I am God's."
Who I am and all my changing titles have to come out of this first title. Not one that I gave myself, but one that God gave to me. It was not about putting myself first, but about remembering that I am first God's and second all the other titles. The priority is God and a commitment to him, above every other relationship and ever other commitment.

Although my life continues to change, my tattoos don't move. They are permanent. Just like my first title, "God's."

Interaction

I started reading CS Lewis's "Miracles" somewhat casually and the other night when I closed the book and settled into bed, I was left considering the dialogue between humans and God- that God himself would want to say something to humans, that he would chose to interact with us.
I was sixteen the first time God was real to me, not just a good idea or mystical being. It was during a youth worship service, with various prayer stations set up. I was praying about service to God, about volunteering; and suddenly, it was as if a flashing neon sign had appeared in my mind: "Nursing Home."
Now, it's humorous to imagine those words lit up in my mind- but at the time, it was terrifying. I remember being afraid of the scent of the community nursing home. At the time I associated it with 'old people', but now I realize it must be a cleaning chemical that was used.
I brushed it off as ridiculous- a nursing home?
Right away, all the youth were called back to the center to finish with a song. I felt as if I had been saved from something- from a call to a nursing home.
The service ended. Wew! I probably just imagined it. A nursing home? Ha!
As everything drew to a close a final announcement was made: volunteers were needed to help with a church service to the local nursing home.
I had not imagined it. And suddenly I felt (while still very nervous) exhilarated; I had heard from God!

Now, it was not life-changing for me to serve at the nursing home. It was inspiring, I learned patience. But the huge part for me what that God himself would speak to ME. Even for something minor, something tiny. He communicates with humanity, his perspective can encompass the whole world with its massive problems and heroes; and still see our individual lives.

I remember I was sixteen years old when this happened, because I was also working my first job, as a waitress. I ususally worked throughout the week, including the night when the nursing home service was.
There was no deal between me and God, no promises made about work and the nursing home. However, after I began volunteering at the nursing home, I never again was scheduled to work another Wed (or was it Thur?) evening, so that there was never a conflict of attending the service or working. A small coincidence? Maybe. But it also reinforced God's hand in my life, including in my work schedule.

As I said, this did not change my life. I have never volunteered or served with the elderly since. Instead I went the other direction and work with youth or children. However, having God single me out, to call me, to speak to me directly moved me.
As I've grown up, God has spoken to me in other ways, often less clearly than a neon sign and a clearly arranged opportunity. I wish that he always used that method! But now I have to listen harder, read more and wait. However, still, he speaks.
And, even if I am nervous about what he says or don't like whatever he tells me, I am in awe that God himself would ever speak to me, call me to do anything or use me in part of his gigantic plan.