Updated: Feb 22, 2021
As Christmas and New Year come and go, most of the world plunges into their work. Barranquilla, however, takes a short breath and prepares for the most celebrated time of the year... Carnaval. Many schools will begin after the week of Carnaval, giving students and teachers their longest break of 3 months during the holidays.
The winds that signaled the beginning of the dry season of the coast in November have enticed us all to linger a little while longer on the patio. While technically people have returned to work, there was a hum of anticipation as February has approached. A splash of the vibrant primary colors displayed in your hair, on your clothes, and in the store windows. Even the oak trees dress themselves the part with bundles of pinkish-purple flowers. The breeze stirs, shaking the pale green leaves back and forth much like women's hips in a traditional cumbia dance of Carnaval. The leaves eventually surrender and float to the ground. The swoosh-swoosh of the straw brooms every morning, gathering our Fall-like season's leaves.
This Saturday evening when the festivities typically gear up, Barranquilla was shutting down. Toque de Queda (mandatory in-home lockdown) began for the remainder of the weekend. The breeze almost on cue submitting to the impromptu restriction. The streets were quiet, making the whole day feel like the early morning hours of daybreak.
Once again, we paused much like 2020. In the stillness, the surroundings begging us to listen. The birds have come out singing choruses I had never heard before. I wonder if they have sung this loudly all along. Perhaps I wasn't listening. Am I listening?
"To receive is not to do nothing..." James S. Taylor
Wonder, contemplation, and awe only require my attention. This seems like an enormous ask these days: Attention. However, I am finding more and more how I need and want this precious gift.
Lately, I have been in awe of this trait in the Colombian way of life. Cómo estás? (How are you?) is not just a way of saying "Hello". Here, it is impolite to leave it out after "Hello" under any circumstance. If a delivery man comes to your door, you say "Hello, how are you?"
When we first arrived I was ignorant of the importance of the second part. In my hurried American way, I would drop the Cómo estás? part.... surely it is more important for me to not waste his time by asking this. However, after several awkward experiences of someone insisting on asking me after I had not, I began paying attention.
Time is not as important as acknowledgment in Colombia. To greet someone is only going halfway. When I ask Cómo estás? I am telling them I see you and they return the same to me: I see you. It is an important exchange because it acknowledges that I care how they are more than I care about the reason for which we are interacting. This is an art for which we are novices. After years and years of only saying Hi and then "getting on with it", I have found it an extremely difficult habit to break!
This Toque de Queda has reminded me how learning this habit of attention permeates into all aspects of my life. Am I able to pray without going through a list of needs and wants sprinkled with a few words of thanks to God? Am I able to sit and stare off our patio at the pinkish-purple flowers that only seem to grow on tropical oak trees? Not only to stare and contemplate but to affirm the value of these beauties. In pausing, I ask Cómo estás? and acknowledge.
By admiring, I am affirming Creation with my whole being. It's as if my posture of attention is saying "yes" to what is before me. Most importantly I become romantically involved in worship. Can I truly worship the Lord if I am hurriedly reaching for the next thing? When I receive in awe and wonder the very life around me, I worship. My eyes literally are seeing the reflecting splendor of the sun... the Son. Jesus enters into my life. He is the Light of the World. When I pray "Give me eyes to see," what I am really saying is I want to see, Jesus. And His splendor illuminates my soul down into every place. There is no crack the light cannot seep through.
This seeing is sacred. We may fear this type of knowledge because we fear what the Light will reveal. However I am reassured over and over in the Word: Fear not, for I am with you. We fear the intimacy of seeing. What then? We are then exposed to Love far deeper, far brighter and we will be humbled. This humility is a bowing. It is not bowing to the created but to the great Giver of life Himself. The One and Only.
The call to worship echoes every day. From wonder and contemplation to the humility of receiving the gift displayed before me. I join in the chorus birds have sung of His praises from the beginning: I will sing of the LORD's great love forever; with my mouth I will make your faithfulness known through all generations. I will declare that your love stands firm forever, that you established your faithfulness in heaven itself. Psalm 89:1-2