On God’s “With” being better than his “Why”

One of the reasons I love Lagos so much is the fact that I don’t have to try very hard to not be alone.

I’ve just returned from another four month stint in my favorite city, and it was glorious. Of course there were the normal frustrations of living in Lagos – the oppressing heat, god-awful customer service, intrusive questions from near strangers. But being surrounded by family, young and old, by friends, old and new, even by strangers, on random road trips to hiking spots – all of this more than made up for it.

And then this past week I came back to Boston. I came back to my perfectly lovely apartment and went through the motions of falling in line and obeying the rules of living in America: updating my car’s registration that had expired while I was gone, paying my outstanding bills, switching my car to a covered space ahead of winter’s snow, opening mail, talking to junior partners at work about new projects. It was all a mostly smooth and predictable process, and I hated every moment of it.

I hated being back. I hated being alone. I missed my family and Lagos friends. I missed not having my 15 month old niece walk into my room saying “Hi” and rummaging on my bed for my phone, and if that was missing, a string of pearls or a bracelet. I missed saying, “No, you can’t brush my new, expensive, full lace front malaysian hair wig with your pink plastic brush” to the four-year old. I missed the food. I missed knowing that one of my oldest friends was just across the bridge and I could meet up with her with a little bit of planning. I missed having people over and hosting games nights and slumber parties. I hated the jetlag – falling asleep at 6pm, and waking up at midnight. I hated missing Let Us Pray’s calls and not getting through either when I called back. I hated the cold. Fine, I still loved the cold weather fashion and my new leather trimmed wool coat made me smile every time I put it on, but once I got outside, the temperature in the 30’s (in Fahrenheit) felt like an extra “f-you-you’re-in-Boston” directed specifically to me.

And so I had a few days where I spiraled. Once the most urgent tasks had been attended to, I took to my bed. I procrastinated the rest of my tasks, and alternated between binge-watching TV and crying. Why was I stuck in this job that would soon again require 14- to 16-hour days from me. Why was Trump getting away with his kleptocracy already – why was he even the president elect? Why wasn’t I able to complete the capital project that had been one of my goals of going home? I was miserable, and I wallowed in my misery.

But then a funny thing happened. Because I was waking up so early (see jetlag above),  I had a ton of time to focus on my morning devotion. And because I had previously decided to fast in December and recruited a girlfriend to join in,  I was fasting anyway. I finished the book of Galatians that I had started weeks before, and I started hearing more clearly. Within a matter of days, the whisper wait became a certainty, and the niggling feeling that there might be something to being okay with being away from my family and friends in Boston became a roaring crescendo that I was actually not alone. I started to see and hear confirmation everywhere – passages and music brought to my remembrance, devotionals by email and in book form, even the two Sunday evening church services I attended (still can’t decide between Park Street and Aletheia) seemed to all have been conscripted into delivering a co-ordinated message from the Most High: Wait on me – don’t rush ahead. Trust in me – stop trying. Give it to me. And the best of all: You are not alone – I will never leave you nor forsake you.

And so I have learned and I am learning. I have no answers for any of the Why’s above. God does not often give answers for that question  [see Job for a sample of his response – it wasn’t an explanation]. But he always answers with a “with.” I don’t know that I’ll get an answer to any of the why’s, but I know that he is with me. And finally, finally – after a decade of running away from learning this lesson – God with me is becoming enough.

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