We pull our chopsticks from their wax paper wrappers, snap them apart and graze them against one another, like twigs starting a fire or iron sharpening iron, to smooth out the splinters while our food steams and cooks in the kitchen.
I turn the English and pinying side of the menu over to the real menu, the one my friend reads. I search the code for familiar symbols. She points to the boxes, lines and curves that she’s just spoken softly for our waitress, and teaches me how to recognize the characters. I keep up the work on the chopsticks while I practice my language skills. Curls of wood settle on the worn table. I flip the menu over to my cheat sheet and then back again to study the hanzi.
First, the waitress brings out a plate of snow peas. Then, another of stir-fried eggs and tomatoes. And my friend tells me how her grandparents made this for her in the countryside where she spent her girlhood sick in bed.
I lean closer to hear her faint voice. I focus my eyes on her mouth, reading her lips as she ekes out the words from her trampled soul. She winces always, as if something is coming right for her, and now I’m starting to understand why. Her parents had sent her away, their one child a disappointment on the Darwinian scale, barely surviving, unfit.
I look out the door of the restaurant at the wooden crate, a rickety step upholstered in red carpet. Yarny fibers collapse under the load of automobile crud, spittle and vegetable scraps. I hear her meaning through the language gap. She bends under her own load, wondering if she’s born to be trodden underfoot.
We dig our chopsticks into the comfort food and scrape it into our bowls, onto soft beds of white rice. Her words come out quiet like a prayer filtered into a feathery pillow.
“But when I see the film,” she recalls scenes from the movie based on Luke’s telling of Jesus’ ministry, “how He loves the sick…I am very surprised- very surprised!”
I lay my chopsticks across the rice bowl. I picture my friend laying down on her cot in the countryside, mostly dead like Jairus’ daughter, except my friend didn’t have a daddy calling out to Jesus for her.
But Jesus, He who laid down his own life to raise her up, He found her nonetheless.
Here she is across the table telling me about Him with her round face like the moon reflecting some distant glory. She clasps her hands over her heart. And I have to do the like. I bring my hand first to rest on my chest and then to cover my mouth. I want to say His name out loud in the middle of this place that is scared of Him. If only they knew His meekness, quietness, how He changes the diagnosis with a gentle touch.
“He sees you,” I tell her, “He knows your need.” She feels this already and opens her eyes, not wincing like before.
We put our smoothed-out chopsticks to work. Ginger and sesame oil trickle from our comfort food, hit the taste buds and slide to the core, nourishing. She is quickened, suddenly feeling her worth under the care of our Great Physician.
Reposted from the archives (with recipe!).
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This week in our Take Heart series we’re talking about the quest for wholeness, whether physical or emotional. As my pastor reminded us in church this past Sunday, we are beings made up of body and spirit, which together form our complete nature, designed by God. Randy Alcorn shares the same concept in his book Heaven, explaining that God intended humankind to be both earthly and spiritual. We’d love to hear how God has helped you take heart in the midst of your own struggles with sickness, disease, or emotional trauma…anything in your quest for wholeness. Start writing and share your post in our link-up tomorrow. And finally, our winner of last week’s “Nest: A Study in Brokenness” giveaway from Be Small Studios (chosen at random) is commenter #6, Jenna Woestman!