I’ve been struggling recently. There is just so much stuff in my world focused on a cloudy future: Where will I go next? What will happen to Jeff? Where will Maggie and I live? Are we going to buy a house? What about children? This future has been eating away at me.
And then Ash Wednesday came along. I invited and was invited to observe a holy Lent, a season of penitence, fasting, and reflection. It was time to clean house, to get my priorities straight. So here I go, I’m writing a spiritual autobiography. My hope is that this practice keeps me balanced between a wonderful history and a cloudy future. While the final work will be private, I am going to share with you all some anecdotes and images from my spiritual journey.
I had a health scare in the Dominican Republic. I was there with the Virginia Seminary to learn Spanish and to do some fieldwork at an Episcopal Church in San Pedro de Macoris (“the cradle of shortstops”). It turned out that the port for my insulin pump created this nasty infection in my skin. I won’t go into the gory details, but suffice it to say that these types of infections are one of the leading causes of death for diabetics.
After prayer, discernment, speaking with my doctor and Maggie, I decided to fly home as quickly as possible in order to be near top-notch healthcare. It turned out that I avoided a staph infection, for which I am incredibly grateful.
But something happened in the Santo Domingo airport on my way home. I was filled with self-loathing, anger at my disease, fear at what may happen, and a general sense of failure. I was leaving behind these wonderful people because of my bodily weakness.
With a heavy heart and a poor appetite, I forced myself to buy breakfast from one of the vendors in the airport. After a quick conversation in Spanish with the cashier, I paid for my meal in Dominican pesos, trying to unload my foreign money before returning to the States. As I sat down to eat my huevos y jamon, I noticed something strange about the change I had received. It wasn’t a peso, it was an American quarter. And not only that, it was a Texas quarter.
And I cried.
I’m usually not one to look for weird coincidences and say “That must be God!” But after all of the pain – emotional and physical – that quarter was a sword piercing my heart. God had led me to this foreign land, and God would lead me home again.
And I cried.
Did God intentionally put that quarter there? I’m not one to say. But I will say this: I eventually spent that quarter, probably at some gas station to put air in my tires. Keeping it around would have been a temptation for idolatry. These little moments of grace are not stories in themselves, they are but chapters and paragraphs woven into the great narrative of God.