I can’t remember a day in my house of upbringing without a rice cooker sitting proud amidst all of the lesser appliances in our kitchen. Day after day, it poured steam from its lid while it popped hard short grain rice into perfect white pillows. It was always toiling. We had rice with almost every dinner, no matter what kind of dinner it was, even spaghetti. And sometimes, after school, my mom mixed me a bowl of hot rice and butter. To this day, I would say it’s hands down better than cookies.
When we didn’t eat all of the rice my mom made the night before, she would take what was left of it and mix the morning-after rice with cold water. I watched her make this cold rice soup for breakfast and requested my own bowl. She chuckled, perplexed by my desire for this meal she ate out of need as a child. She grew up eating whatever amounts of rice were left, if any, and added water to it because that was the only way to quiet her hollow belly. She continued to do it long after it was a necessity, while standing in a kitchen full of food with a daughter who had never known that kind of hunger.
It wasn’t that I just wanted to be like her, spooning the cold rice and water. What I wanted most was to know her and understand the stories that made her who she was. If she had spent days consuming barely-filled bowls of this soup like treasure, I wanted to taste it.
At an early age, I remember being drawn to stories filled with war, poverty, and hardship. I sat on the rough, gray carpet of my third-grade classroom asking question after question while learning about the first peoples of America, trying to understand what had really happened. At university, I was drawn into literature of the Holocaust and literature from oppressed voices. I would walk home from classes crying from the weight of them, but I kept reading, striving to uncover something within me and the world around me. I saw my mom in every story. I looked for the family she lost and the millions of questions that surrounded her life in every book. I searched because deep down, I believed that knowing her would help me know myself. And knowing myself would elucidate The One who had created my innermost parts.
The stories that surround our making matter. The tastes, colors, languages and landscape matter. We were made to pay attention to these stories because paying attention to them teaches us who we are and gives us the ability to see that God made us to belong to one another. All of our deepest desires are wrapped up in our connected stories.
As I grew into adulthood and the answers I searched for didn’t show up, I wanted to turn my back on these stories. I wanted to give up on the complicated emotions and the hurt and chase after my own dreams. I wondered if I could make myself into whatever I wanted to be, and if I could replace cold rice soup for whatever light-hearted, trendy brunches suited my fancy.
I’ve run my shoes ragged on the heels of some dreams. And in the face of them I’ve met disappointment as those dreams died or the reality of achieving them only showed me that they weren’t enough.
I’ve become convinced that chasing after my own dreams is too small a thing to live for and simply living surrendered to the stories in and around me is everything.
Life has a way of bringing all of us to our knees. Sometimes the path ahead is one painful step after another. No one tells you how much it will hurt to start again, to get out of bed, to say what you really feel, to admit your doubt and disbelief. I don’t know anyone that has hustled their way out of this predicament this side of the veil. And I don’t know anyone who has become satisfied chasing their own dreams.
But here’s what I’ve seen: The dreams I thought were worth chasing were only small clues to the story that was being written down deep. It’s a story that can’t be written without the ones that came before it and the ones that are meant to follow after it. There’s a bigger dream unfolding. It’s an unstoppable revolution of redemption. It will rise up again despite the losses we face and the time it takes for us to realize that our worth, despite everything, is too big to wrap in clichés and Bible verses taken out of context.
Our story, yours and mine, and all of ours together? It’s Christ’s story. This Christmas season, it’s His story that’s begging us to become those who let go of playing tag with our own small dreams and take up the courageous act of sitting still long enough to listen and become those who know how to pay attention.
Our story, yours and mine, and all of ours together? It’s Christ’s story. -@tashajunb: Click To Tweet