To the left of the road, the trash dump for the station. Heaps of garbage, columns of smoke rising from the attempt to burn the trash. An old man was picking through the pile, looking for anything useful. And between the road and the dump, a ditch filled with grey, bubbly, putrid water, the effects of sunless days and drenching rains. The stench is nauseating, the view distressing. A stray dog lopes through.
To the right of the road, however, eucalyptus bushes lend a balancing fragrance, with their silvery-green leaves and exotic scent. The valley falls away over boulders and acacias. In the distance, the sun filters through clouds, a golden light on the tops of mounts Suswa, Margaret, and Longonot. The horizon is endlessly far away, hazy and beautiful.
One path, but two views, both real.
And as I jogged along, it struck me that this is a picture of life. As we move along our path, we can look left or look right. We can see the putrid or the sublime, because both are there. Neither should be ignored, but there is some choice involved in which way we spend most of the time looking. And I've been looking left too much.
Looking left, my heart sinks when a kid misses a deadline for a school event, sits on the bench for a game, does not get invited to participate. But if I looked right I'd be thankful for school even if we are at times peripheral. Be thankful for a season without injuries, even if playing time has been disappointing.
Looking left, I feel inadequate and incompetent in my work and in most of life. Looking right, I'd be grateful for the blessing of being around people who are smarter and more experienced than I am. To the left, another baby with incurable complicated heart disease, who will die sooner rather than later. To the right, a child whose bone marrow aspirate showed his cancer was cured.
Looking left, my heart protests the way God allows suffering in the lives of people I love. Looking right, I see the privilege of walking through a hard and dark valley with friends this week.
Looking left, I am tired of the intestinal parasite that has wiped me out, as well as the toxicity of the cure. Looking right, I realize how great it is that no one else in the family got it.
Looking left, the tension of living in a country on the edge, tense, unstable, wondering when the next grenade will be launched. Looking right, the reality that life goes on almost normally.
This month started with an absolutely life-draining, mistakes-made, non-stop call weekend. I think I started looking left then, and now three weeks later I've hardly appreciated the view to the right. God sent my mom to organize my kitchen and play games with my kids and cheer us on. He sent two visiting doctors to allow a little breathing space in life, mentors, gift-bringers who have taught and supported in amazing ways. He sent friends to fix our car. He sent us a weekend break. Bethany reminded me that praise and thanks are instruments of war. That when we're under attack, the way to survive and emerge is by remembering thankfulness. By looking to the right. How many Psalms are written just this way? A lament of left-ward looking, true, painful, and then a transition to look rightward and remember that which is also true and beautiful, even if distant.
Pray that as we plod along this road, we'll balance the left-view of the trash dump by taking long right-views of the sun on the valley.