My dark-skinned sisters, they lead me through the jungle brush. I am glazed like a Christmas ham, except I am coated with salty sweat and bug spray. I am overwhelmed, fatigued, but I keep trying to smile, trying to hide that my mind has been racing for the last 7 days, trying to curtain the reality that my heart has been beating a little bit faster ever since I stepped foot in this green country. But I know that the path I currently tread leads to refreshment. I carry a towel; my Papua New Guinean sister carries the laplap I’ll use to cover myself since she knows we Westerners value our privacy. We come to the end of our short journey. Before us I see a little nook constructed out of huge banana leaves, just next to a hole of fresh water. Agusta and Peter dug this hole themselves, with their hands they made this little respite to bathe in and drink from. My sisters fill up two big buckets to the brim, almost to overflowing. A few days ago my eyes had been those buckets, but they couldn’t hold my tears.
“Erin, you first,” they say to me. “Don’t be shy,” Anna giggles.
I find my spot in the corner of the banana leaves, my aloneness. I haven’t been alone in a week, so I savor this moment. I take it all in without a hundred eyes watching me. But even if they were, at this point, I don’t feel shy, just desperate. I shed my sweat soaked clothes and scoop the cold, cold water over me. Through a crack in the leaves I can see for miles and miles. The Papua New Guinean sun, the same sun that shines over Texas, is bright and beautiful and I look at it like I’m seeing it for the first time. I see the ocean and the jungle leading to it. And I’m overcome with the Glory. This moment, as the frigid water cools me, my heart too is finding reprieve. And truly, I lift my eyes up to the hills. And my Help comes.
And though I know that not long after this cleansing, I’ll perspire again and my feet will be coated with dust, I am still lifted. And isn’t that just how life goes on this Earth? We journey, we labor, we sweat and cry and bleed. And then we come again to the water’s edge because we’re just so thirsty and full of dirt. And always He is there to greet us when we come. And always there are new wonders to behold.
He whispers to me, responding, “Yes, you can.” For He knows the question I’ve been asking him for days. “Can I really do this?”
I dry off and redress. I step out from my aloneness. And I face again the new realities of my changing life, but I am filled with hope at what is to come, for I know cooling streams are never out of my reach when I turn to Him.
“Come, everyone who thirsts, come to the waters…” Isaiah 55:1