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Sun in the Afternoon



I never liked avocados until I was pregnant with my daughter. The mushy consistency and seemingly bland flavor that threw me off for my first 29 years of life became a nonsensical, passionate craving.

I chose to say my wedding vows in a breathtakingly beautiful and shockingly scarlet dress. My unusual choice fit my personality for many reasons including my not so humble opinion that red makes me look amazing, and white does nothing for me.

I spent my junior year of college living in London where month by month God slowly began to transform me into the woman I am today: a woman deeply passionate about serving God and serving others.

And truthfully, I want the people around me to know these things.

Not everyone. But at least a few people who have knowledge or connection with the stories that form my past. Not so much because the stories are so important, but rather because knowing the stories mean people more deeply understand me.

Back in the days when I used to think about the type of man I would marry, I hoped that my future husband would be from a huge extended family. My dreams envisioned being part of the connectedness I associate with numerous, closely-knit relatives. My childhood occurred remarkably far away from most of my extended family. The connections were few and far between. Those visits made me wish harder that in my married life, family wouldn’t be something far off but rather something next door or across the street or down the road.

I got my wish. Numerous aptly describes my husband’s relatives. The only problem is that they live far from us just like my own family. Between our two families, we literally connect to a map of the world as our blood relationships span states, countries, and continents.

With relatives in so many far-flung locations, the importance of community becomes increasingly evident. So in this context, my husband, my daughter, and I strive to put down roots in the city we have lived in for less than a year. The process feels like a lazy flowing stream, slowly moving, and I wish for the speed of a mighty river. I long for deep roots. I long to be known. I long for a network of friends that are like family to us. I long for people who know about my recent avocado love, my red wedding dress, and my life-changing year.

At our farewell party in Cape Town prior to our move to Charlotte, North Carolina, I glanced around at the people present who had become connected to our lives. Despite challenging beginnings, the end result was the sweet realization that we were known and we knew others; the sweet realization that our lives intertwined with the lives of those around us. During our time in Cape Town, we tasted the edge of what it feels like to live in a community that is our family.

Less than a year later, we try to recreate what we had. Or, rather, build afresh in the aftermath of upheaval, resulting from even a much-desired move.

Several months ago, a massive storm dominated and destroyed during the sleeping hours of our town. The city awoke to trees horizontal to the ground, branches in the roads and roofs ruined. Morning showers and debris reminded everyone of the chaos from the night before. As I cautiously drove through intersections without working traffic lights and roads strewn with broken branches, I heard the weatherman on the radio report the storm had passed, the showers would end by late morning and the sun would shine that afternoon. It didn’t seem possible looking around at the falling rain and remnants of the storm, but the radio said with confidence the sun would shine.

This journey feels like that storm. Those cyclonic first few weeks in Charlotte moved violently through our lives, and the morning has come where the storm has moved on. The remaining downpour is gradually shifting to sprinkling showers and by the afternoon, the sun will shine. The sun will shine!

I think after nine months, I can glimpse the beginnings of shining sun. In moments of clarity, I see what it might be once the lingering rain subsides and the afternoon sun bursts forth. I imagine children who are like sisters and brothers to my daughter and friends who are as comfortable in my kitchen as I am in theirs. But some days I wish this sense of being deeply rooted in a community already snugly fit in each corner of my soul. In these moments, the grey rain clouds settle back in my heart, and I imagine this desire isn’t possible. Not even close.

The process seems to inch forward and then move a centimeter back. Every inch forward hints at what God is building in His time. Every centimeter back reminds me we aren’t there yet, and I wonder if I will even know when “there” arrives.

During those two years in Cape Town, God engraved the words of the Psalmist on my heart: “God sets the lonely in families.” He created our Cape Town community that became like our family. Not immediately, but in His timing. So in this new place, we take small steps forward as we have become part of a church, joined Bible studies, hosted social events with our new neighbors and friends, and participated in community groups. And I take baby steps back as I reflect on my grey moments and realize so much of my story is still unknown.

Yet, truth reverberates in my head: God sets the lonely in families. Families are created, communities are built because the Master Builder intentionally places people together. I can trust that God is at work because I serve a triune God. As Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, He defines community. Brick by brick this same triune God is building our community and setting us in a family. In time, I will see in the faces of friends who know my stories and whose stories I know, the mighty and powerful hand of God.

The storm clouds have passed, and we are now living in the midst of the remaining showers. I know the sun will shine again in its full God given glory. This longing for deep connection is more than possible. It is the very nature of God. One day, perhaps soon, or perhaps in the far off future, I will awake and realize we are entrenched and intertwined in a community that is our family.

I may not fully realize when the afternoon sun starts shining. I will, however, know it shines by the grace of my God who loves community and family.

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Patrice Gopo lives in Charlotte, North Carolina, with her husband and her daughter. She enjoys glimpsing God’s divine hand in the everyday moments of life. She is passionate about writing, community, justice, and poverty alleviation. Each year that passes she is amazed to see how God connects these passions in ways she could never ask for or imagine.

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Sun in the Afternoon

by Patrice Gopo time to read: 5 min