Have you ever read Thomas More’s Utopia? It’s terrible. I mean, no way it could work, but if it did, life there would be horribly bland. Anyone who’s known me long can tell you that I’ve always been partial to dystopian fiction, and one of my favorites is Ursula LeGuin’s short story “The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas.” It’s a brilliant work because Omelas is described as a utopia where everyone lives happily though they go through a coming of age moment where they must look upon a single child who bears the entirety of the community’s suffering. Their paradise is at the expense of oppression.

I’ve described a lot of what I’ve experienced in New Zealand as paradise, but I’m under no illusions this place is perfect – just pretty close. Despite the locals complaining about the overcast weather on Christmas, I enjoyed one of the warmest, sunniest Christmas day’s in my life where I woke up to a message from my precious nephews, sang some carols with my brothers and sisters in Christ, and enjoyed a home cooked meal with the extended family of one of the pastors here. I even got to open some presents – one of which included fun socks from Liz who’s noticed my affinity for loud designs to decorate my somewhat dormant toes. 

My blister has healed quite nicely though I was still cautious about walking too much this week. I’m planning to start the new year with lots of new walks if the weather cooperates. I’m deep in the Psalms this week with the reading plan my students and I are on, and I love having the poetic praises echo through my head as I move through my day. My body doesn’t always work right, but I can still step outside and join in with the songs celebrating the beauty of the heavens and earth around me. Again, it’s still not paradise yet because that would be me without any mobility aids and my nephews snuggled up beside me as I read to them instead of shipping their Christmas books across an ocean, but I’m so grateful for the taste of glory I get while on sabbatical in this almost perfect place. 

This week my prayer is that I’ll be able to live well in this imperfect place while keeping my eyes fixed on the perfect Healer who we just celebrated at Christmas. If there’s good weather, you’ll hear about another walk to the grocery store cafe down the street by next week. If not, you can expect I’ll have done a couple hundred modified squats and the rest of my physio routine in preparation to head back to see Mike after he returns from his vacation. Either way, I won’t be fooled by the illusion of Omelas – which, fun fact, is “Salem O” spelled backwards because LeGuin never missed a chance to make a political statement and was levelling a subtle charge at her state capitol. 

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