“Instead, [your beauty] should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight.” (1 Peter 3:4)
Calloused feet, some barefoot, beat the dust as many as five hours to make the pilgrimage on Sunday for chapel. I don’t know if the same was true of those attending the memorial service held 12 January 2011, acknowledging the one-year anniversary of the earthquake and hundreds of thousands of deaths, but the dedication and devotion of heart there revealed no difference.
If there was an Event for me in Haiti, one that irreversibly rippled my spirit and traced images on my heart, it happened during this service, in the pew at the far back. And it was quiet. Once again, the powerful emotional moment I anticipated amidst the impressive testimonies of survival and burning fervor of amazingly joyous, grateful worship failed to land.
“After the earthquake came a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire came a gentle whisper.” (1 Kings 19:12)
I dropped my arms, no longer willing to pretend, and sat down, suddenly intensely weary. Elbows to knees, head hung, pensive thoughts traveled down a road leading far from the red-and-white-striped tent I was sitting in, swiftly overtaking the mild guilt reaction I had to my own unusual desensitization.
A smallish hand placed itself on my knee. My face also being so near said knee, the hand was impossible to ignore; I glanced up, tossed a fleeting smile into a face so sweet I initially thought it was a child’s, and went back to what can only be described as sulking. Throughout the trip and as part of a larger pattern, I felt darkest and most attacked in those circumstances—at the worship service, and the next day at the beach—when I should have been happiest.
The hand defied rejection and I found myself embraced by and embracing the beaming young woman, a result of its stealthy work. When she stood again to worship, I stood; when she raised her hands, I lifted them in offering as well—my pale hand, covered in small cuts from cardboard, held in her dark one, cool and rough. When we sat down for a teaching, she rested in my lap. It was a tender, but relentless refusal to let me experience anything but joy those few hours.
It was an afterthought that her behavior toward me, exceedingly childish at times, indicated some kind of mental “deficiency”. I was more aware, when we exchanged a kiss farewell but still not a single word, that she was sitting in a hand cart; it was likely she had multiple sclerosis or another degenerative disease. I wondered if she was an outcast even among these poor, even while clearly seeing her security, the surety of her status as a citizen of the Kingdom. We departed with understanding; God had spoken His peace—in her nameless quiet soul, I had met the very person of Christ.