Can’t sleep, so why not blog about India?
It seems like it’s been a tug-of-war since we were first introduced to this incredible place. We were warned before going that we’d either love it or we’d hate it. We loved it.
Well, actually, at first we hated it.
I mean, it’s unorganized, inefficient, people bobble their heads when they talk, cows lay freely in the street, “yes” doesn’t always mean “yes”, poverty is unbelievable, the smells are unforgettable, traffic will give you a headache, trash is everywhere, and the attitude of “chalta hai” makes life a general frustration for any true American. It’s no wonder we were once asked one of those typical pragmatic questions by a family member, “Is there any redeeming value to India?”
I admit I still have trouble answering that question. To an American, India is your worst nightmare. Actually, to just about any Westerner, India would be your worst nightmare. If you’re looking for kept front lawns, clean lines, punctual meetings or any sort of efficiency whatsoever – better go enjoy a walk around your own neighborhood and forget about India.
But almost as if to prove the old saying, “Distance makes the heart grow fonder”, Michael and I found ourselves missing it. I think it took coming back to the U.S. to see the charm and character of India. For all it’s negatives, there was something that tugged at us a little.
On our return home, we landed in Chicago and from there flew home to Kansas City. I remember the first time I looked outside the window just before landing and being fascinated by the clean lines of the fields below. Then as we drove home I couldn’t stop noticing the clean grass without litter or people sleeping on it. No circus horns or trucks decorated with garland. No naked children running up to the car for money. No stinky smells waiting outside. No motorcycles with families of five crammed onto one vehicle. No tuk-tuks. It was like… Wow, on a scale of one to ten, one being no character at all and ten being India, America was boring! Of course I was dealing with “reverse” culture-shock from coming back to the U.S., so it didn’t take long to readjust. And there were more trips back and forth that eventually made the contrasts less difficult to process.
It’s hard to believe that it’s been almost a year since the last time we were in India. On the afternoon of our last day there, it rained heavily and unusually late for that time of the year. Most of the monsoon rains are done by late July or early August, but this year had a longer season than normal. Michael got back to our room from work and told me to grab the camera – there was a rainbow outside. We took the elevator to the top floor and I snapped a few pictures.
Isn’t that just like God? In my heart I felt Him saying with a smile: “I’ve heard your prayers, you’ll be back.”After so much laboring in prayer to be able to return to India, God was sealing the deal with one of his most popular promise signatures. So naturally, we expected Michael’s long-term assignment would be approved without a hitch and we’d be back before we knew it.
We learned however, that God’s time-table was obviously different than ours.
Since September we’ve been through ups and downs, moves and marriages, friendships and funerals. There have been times we were sooo certain we would be sent back to India, but for whatever reason things just didn’t work out. I’ve lost count of how many meetings, talks, proposals, ifs, whens, whats, whos have been discussed about Michael returning to India. Not one of the plans have come through and each felt like a tease. We began to consider what other ways we could go back. Would it be much later in life than we were expecting? All the rules seemed to have changed.
I remember being at church one morning feeling so discouraged and bummed. Everyone’s worshipping but my heart was so broken because we were just informed no more assignments to India would be offered. There was some legal trouble between Michael’s company and India so no one else was allowed back. I remember thinking, “What now God? What does this mean? Why does this keep happening? What are your plans for us?” I couldn’t help crying. The whole situation was so disappointing. We were sure that this time everything would work out. In that moment all God said to me was: “You will go back, but it will be under different circumstances.” I tried pressing in for more, but that was all I got. So I wrote it down in my little pink journal and we waited, and waited… and we waited some more.
And then, again out of the blue, another proposal. Another long-term assignment. And not six months, or even a year, but a year-and-a-half. Eighteen months in India? We couldn’t believe it. Is this really happening?
Sometimes I go from being excited to being completely overwhelmed. Here we are in Albuquerque, New Mexico and they want Michael to leave for India by the first of September. It’s hard not to feel anxious and swallowed up by everything that needs to get done. Visas, and packing, and doctor check-ups, and legal documents, and selling our vehicles, and finding a new place to live, and, and, and, and…
Of course, to-do list queen here already has two separate five-columned lists of preparations and tasks to be done before the time of departure. And we’re hoping Michael will be allowed to come home early to give him the time necessary to get ready.
I’ve had a lot of time to think about this and in the middle of the swings between excitement and dread, I notice another very difficult emotion: sadness. There is a cost to everything, and this is no exception. I don’t think we’ll fully understand the cost this will bring to our loved ones and that’s a heavy truth to accept. For some reason when I think about leaving my little sister, it affects me the most. Not that I don’t love everyone, but I think older siblings never get over the worry of abandoning their younger brothers or sisters. And a lot can happen in a year-and-a-half. Things change, people change, and life goes on. I know that the full weight of that has not hit me entirely yet, and it kind of scares me.
I’ve been asking God, “Are we doing this for you? Is this what you want?” And the old verse from C.T. Studd’s poem keeps coming to mind: “Only one life ’twill soon be past, only what’s done for Christ will last.” In the book of Galatians Paul says that fourteen years after receiving the Gospel from Jesus, he went back to check with the elders in the church to make sure he wasn’t “[running] the race in vain”. Now that it seems we’re finally going to India, in some ways I feel like Paul. If I’m not doing this for God, it’s not worth it. And if we are doing this for God, how can we be the most intentional and bear the most fruit for Him while we’re there?
Jesus said there was a cost to following Him. Is he worth it? Is Jesus worth my family, my home, my time, my possessions, my life? And the question He asks in return is: Are the lost in India worth it? I’ve already given my life over to Him, and Jesus is not divided. He is both King and Redeemer at once. To live is Christ and that is my only option. “And whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.” (Mat 10:38-39)
The cost of following him is great, but he also promised to all “who [have] left houses or brothers or sisters or fathers or mother or children or lands, for [his] name’s sake, will receive a hundredfold and will inherit eternal life.” (Mat. 19:29) Jesus is the ultimate reward. And the One who calls me away from my family and home is the one who loves them more and will care for them better than I ever could.
In the Gospel of Luke Jesus proclaimed: “Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.” (Lk 12:32) “Fear not”… The same words a woman at church received and shared at the beginning of the year. “Fear not” … The same words God said to Joshua before he took possession of the Promised Land.
So the rainbow stands, like all of God’s promises. Whether we goto India tomorrow or 10 years from now, His Word will never pass away: “For all the promises of God find their Yes in him. That is why it is through him that we utter our Amen to God for his glory.” (1 Cor 1:20)