We are anxious to get back to Burundi.
We are feeling anxious about getting back to Burundi.
There are two distinct implications of that word.
One feels like an anticipatory excitement. “I’m so anxious for you to meet our new baby”. The other feels like dread that has been dragged from an expected future into the present. “I get anxious every time I think about it.”
This single word has two almost opposite uses.
I am nervous and worried about something bad happening in the future.
I am eager and excited for something good to happen in the future.
In that way (those ways) I feel like anxious is about as accurate of a description of how we’re feeling about returning to Burundi.
On one hand, we can’t wait to get back. To the place that feels like home. To our friends, our team, our community. To a feeling of normalcy. To our work, our place, our home.
On the other hand, there is a sense of not knowing what will happen. The other day I realized why it feels strange. Usually, if I am nervous about something it’s because I don’t know how something outside of my control will happen. I don’t know how someone else will act. I don’t know how something will occur. I don’t know because it’s out of my control. the weather could turn bad. He could get angry. This thing might fall over. In this case, the unpredictable future event…is me. I myself am the thing that I don’t know how to anticipate. I don’t know how I will feel once we’re back in our home.
When something happens so your own home – the place you normally feel the most secure, at ease and relaxed – becomes the site of a violent attack it throws something that felt secure into an unknown. It kind of dunks the idea “I feel at home” into a whole new set of emotional experiences.
“Be anxious about nothing” is the instruction given to followers of Jesus. I just looked it up, and the word there (μεριμνᾶτε, if ancient Greek means anything to you) is translated into English as worry, as often as it’s translated anxious. So we are talking about that second kind of anxious, the nervous, negative one. But it’s hard to do that- the never being anxious part. At least certain times.
UPDATE: WHAT IT’S ACTUALLY LIKE
We are now back in our home in Burundi. We’ve been back a few days and can now see – at least a little bit – what that anxiety was about. What it was for. If it was justified.
For me, it has been surprisingly uneventful.
I think the fact that we spent a few weeks here after the attack before we left for Canada was probably very helpful so our most recent memories are not those directly tied to that event. Our team has made our entry about as smooth as possible.
There are still times when I pause in a particular place in our home, and there is a surreal quality to the memories of that night. Kissing my daughter as I tuck her into bed then turning around and realizing “this is where I was almost murdered” is about as disconnected of a set of thoughts and emotions as I can imagine.
I don’t mean to sound flippant about it, but since that memory is actually part of my lived experience – it is actually real to me – in some way by definition it can’t feel unreal. It is what happened there. So there is this tension between what I know to be unreal, unbelievable, impossible, and yet at the same time is not.
It’s hard to discern how much of what the house feels like now is due to prolonged absence (these eight months is by far the longest we’ve ever been away), how much is a new reality that is painted over everything we’ve ever known here due to the attack, and honestly how much is the nine-hour jet lag on top of 40-some hours of travel.
Today is the third Sunday of Advent, the one often associated with JOY. So that’s what I want to focus on this week. Joy, maybe not because of how I feel, perhaps even in spite of it. Joy that we’re home. Joy that we’re all still here. Joy that it’s almost Christmas. Joy because of what Christmas means.
‘Be anxious for nothing’ feels like a definition of joy, so I guess I’ll just go with that.