Yesterday morning I woke up on the edge of Uganda’s biggest national park. The sun rose with its orange, warm glow over the endless fields of green. For the first time in a long time, I woke up in a bed with white bed sheets in a small cottage that I shared with a dear colleague. We both said in the morning how much we enjoyed sleeping in white bed sheets with the morning light creeping in.
God’s in the brazen rising of the sun with its curtain of determined possibility falling behind it like fresh mercy across all the upturned fields and faces.
– Ann Voskamp
It’s remarkable how white can make such a difference. It’s probably my favourite colour because it has all the colours. Little did I know yesterday morning how I would need the comfort of white, as a promise of life and hope, in what would be one of the hardest days of my time in Uganda so far.
A couple hours after waking up on that glorious, quiet spot in nature, I got a text from a dear friend. About a little girl. She had been in the hospital for two weeks now with second degree burns all over her little body. I visited before going to the field for work. I remember being quite positive about her progress. She looked bright and was healing. However, while I was away, she got a lung infection, her situation worsened and yesterday morning she went into cardiac arrest. Her tiny body wasn’t strong enough to keep fighting. She passed away. Only 2,5 years old.
My favourite memory of her is from a couple months ago. We organised a BBQ with my home group, which is how I know the little girl’s daddy. He took along his wife and daughter. While I was preparing food, she came running into the kitchen and we played hide and seek. She laughed. I laughed and fell in love with the little princess, whose name means peace.
So pointless. So unnecessary. I honestly don’t understand. I just can’t understand. Why does a little girl have to become a victim of anger and hurt? As I let it sink in that the little girl has passed, I remember a movie I recently watched. Based on the book, The Shack, it’s about a father losing his daughter. The scene that touched me, which I didn’t remember from the book, is when the father carries the body of his little girl in a white sheet. He can’t let her go. The man, portraying Jesus, takes over and carefully puts the little girl in the coffin he made especially for her.
After this I looked, and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and before the Lamb. They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands.
Which reminded me of white clothes. And as I drive back down to Kampala, I imagine her running in a field of endless flowers and sunshine right into Jesus’ arms. Happy, alive and peaceful in a beautiful, white dress.
The colour of peace. The colour of her name.
As angry, sad and heartbroken as I might be. This little girl had an incredible sense of peace over her when I saw her last. She made an impact on me. Cause honestly, my faith hasn’t been very strong in the past weeks. I have felt like I was praying against a glass ceiling. A wall. My faith was purely a rational foundation, relying on moments of the past in which I had experienced all the joy that faith can bring. I was a bit lost. Searching. Praying. Reading. For answers. For guidance. To understand.
But there is little to understand. I am so tiny. My thoughts, my understanding, my reasoning, my faith is all so little compared to who God is. And this little girl made me see it again. How I need God to step into my own whiteness again. Cause I can’t do it on my own, no matter how hard I try. I have nothing to give, but my brokenness.
Cleanse me with hyssop, and I will be clean;
wash me, and I will be whiter than snow.
Create in me a pure heart, O God,
and renew a steadfast spirit within me.
Do not cast me from your presence
or take your Holy Spirit from me.
Restore to me the joy of your salvation
and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.
My sacrifice, O God, is a broken spirit;
a broken and contrite heart
you, God, will not despise.
And there it is. In the middle of all the questions, the hurt and the brokenness. A little girl, now dancing with Jesus, shows me grace. Through the horrible tragedy of death, I find life again. Love. I feel my heart open up again and through the cracks, I let the light flow in.
It doesn’t mean the questions are gone. It doesn’t mean I understand why anger, selfishness, hurt has to happen. It doesn’t help me get rid of feeling alone with a head full of worry and pain sometimes. It won’t make me stop crying.
But it does give me peace.
Where are you, God?
God is in you, the redeemed and the claimed and the named, God is in you, always rising and raising you up again.
God’s in the rising from the ashes, He’s in the rolling away of the stones, He’s in your resistance against the dark, right there in your daily practice of resurrection.
God’s moved right in, bent low and slipped in through the cracks of your broken heart, and camps within you and this is exactly where He is:
He’s fighting for you, so you can be still.
He’s going right before you, always making a way.
He’s carrying you, so you can lean into the strength of the Universe.
He’s the courage in your veins, the drumbeat of the brave in your heart, the resilient grit in your every rising, your every step forward.
He’s in the love that always finds a way to find you.
Never doubt that He’s in the hope that raises your chin, that looks you straight in the eye and believes that you will meet grace again and again and that grace is the most unstoppable force in the universe and that grace gives you enough, makes you enough, and will be all of your enough and it is always on time, not a moment too soon and never a moment too late.
You have a Lover holding you together, you have a Comforter cupping His hands for every tear, you have a Friend whose arm’s around you, pulling you into the safest presence that won’t leave you alone for one God-forsaken moment.
And as I walk towards the tiny little coffin and look at her beautiful, peaceful face. I whisper in my heart “thank you, little princess, now go and dance in your new white dress.”