I have written this blog post in my head as many times as I’ve driven on the road between my village and town. There are several ways to get from Sop Soi to the town of Mae Hong Son but the way I take, brings me past a long stretch of road along which an older man stands each day, late in the afternoon.
The first time I saw him, I pitied him. He doesn’t look too old – maybe in his 70s or so – but he has a cane… or rather a cane with four points on the bottom – I don’t know what that’s called. The first time I saw him, he was maybe 5 or 6 feet out from the edge of the road and it looked as if he was trying to cross the street. On I drove, past him and into town. The next several times I saw him, he was in the exact same position, at some point along that stretch of road. Again, I pitied him but, I have to admit, didn’t stop to offer any assistance.
It took me a fair amount of time to really see what this old man was doing. He had a cane. He was clearly out on the road. He was positioned perpendicular to the road – as if he was trying to cross the street. But finally I realised that he wasn’t trying to cross the street, he was edging his way down the street. Shuffling along with his cane he moved sideways down the road. All that time I’d seen him and driven past and it took me this long to realise that he was a man, out for a walk.
He moved slowly – like he was relearning how to walk again after a stroke. He was determined. And as time has passed, I can attest that he has gained both strength and speed.
Years ago, on one of my trips in or out of town, God spoke to me and told me that I was like that man. From one perspective, my perspective, I was like him as when he seemed to be trying to cross the road and was barely moving. He WAS moving – just in a different direction.
There have been many times during my time here when I’ve struggled to see my progress. At times, the same struggles seemed to be constant, language learning had plateaued, day after day the same frustrations arose, nothing changed, culture shock would still get me – again, village living would be hard, having less privacy would still be hard… and my list of woes would go on.
Then I’d see this man out walking and the Lord would say, “You ARE moving. You ARE making progress. You ARE growing. You HAVE overcome certain struggles or culture shock issues or whatever… But new ones have come up and there are new things I want to teach you…Keep going…Press on…”
I saw that man out walking this evening. He was posed like a statue at the top of the road, cane in hand. His stature is taller, and stronger now. I don’t know how he sees himself. Maybe he doesn’t even think about that. But seeing him always reminds me about perspective… and how sometimes it may look like we’re standing in one place but in actuality we are moving forward. Or sideways. But from God’s perspective, we are moving along on the road He’s marked out for us.
I have one week left in the village – thereabouts. Still a lot to be done with the house but I will stay in town from the 25th until the 28th or so, when I head off to Chiang Mai. I still can’t believe that my time here in Sop Soi is nearly done. I went to pay rent for the last time this week and when I arrived at my landlord’s house, his 7 year old daughter bellowed from out of the house and into the yard saying that I’d arrived. Then she promptly went back to watching tv. Oh Nong Boom – I’ll miss you. Uncle Phut and his young wife Kham Lu came and when I told them that I move out at the end of this month, Kham Lu said that she’d miss me. I’m not sure how sincere she was but I’d believe it more from her than I would from other people in the village. They told me to come and visit them when I come back to visit Mae Hong Son.
Although I’m ready to leave the village, I’m not ready to say goodbye to my close friends in Thailand. Although I’m looking forward to going back to Canada for 9 months, I’m not ready for what those 9 months entail. Still much to pray about and process and entrust to the Lord.
I guess the Lord’s words to me can still apply: “You ARE moving. You ARE making progress. You ARE growing. You HAVE overcome certain struggles or culture shock issues or whatever… But new ones have come up and there are new things I want to teach you…Keep going…Press on…”