[Wow, it’s been a while since I’ve written. I’m laid up after an ACL reconstruction and I decided to spend some of my time writing, well, rambling, really. So for the next few days anyways, I’m going to ramble on here.]
Here I sit. In South Orange County California, in a decent-sized residential house nestled in a committee-planned suburb filled with perfectly rounded bushes and purposefully planted trees to offer the calming effects of raw (but tamed) nature for the residents of these neighborhoods. Here I sit, amidst the comforts and conveniences of the western world. A car, complete with car seats for my three little people, sits outside at the curb awaiting only the turn of a key to open up a world of freedom I’ve not tasted in 19 months. There is a dishwasher in residence, along with a clothes washer and dryer. My clothes come out of that dryer warm and soft and smelling like…mmm, clean clothes. The sheets on my bed give off subtle fragrances of lavender and the towel I wrap around myself after a shower is fluffy and cozy. If the temperature inside dips to an uncomfortable level – a level heavily disputed by those in the house – then a heater kicks on and wow suddenly we are saved the effort of putting on that extra layer of clothing. Within five minutes in any direction there is a grocery store that I can guarantee will never be out of foods like cheese or oatmeal or milk or eggs or flour or butter. But wait, I also don’t need so much oatmeal and milk and eggs and flour and butter – I can buy packaged tortillas, chilled dinner rolls in tubes that my four year old daughter could figure out how to bake, ice cream that is already churned and frozen (by far my favorite thing right now), and why in the world would I make oatmeal every morning where there is an innumerable amount of boxed cereals to choose from?! Oh, and there’s a Target close by, lots of them actually, and I can walk in there and find pretty much anything I need while being convinced by mere perusal of shelves that my “needs” are actually far greater than I originally thought (the Lord made me a missionary to save me from Target…really). And lastly, but maybe most importantly, there is live football on the television and I get to watch this year’s playoffs and Super Bowl…live!
So here I sit, in South Orange County, uprooted from the land I now call home where the flora grows green and lush and cannot be tamed for anything. A land where I can go four or five months without stepping foot in an automobile and if I happen to do so and decide to bring my little people, they are strapped in with merely a lap belt. A land where washing dishes has become my profession – it turns out there can be a good, better, and best way to wash dishes; Brent sticks with the good, I go for the best, therefore most nights he’s not allowed to do them (it’s an embarrassing point of contention between us) – and cleaning laundry takes all day. Evidence of clean clothes comes from the faint scent of smoke and the crunchy-dry feeling that all moisture has been wicked away from the holey, stained, and sun-bleached material after a morning on the line. This is a land where you never know what you will or will not find in the store but where you learn to accept the challenge of working with what you’ve got and you develop quite an open give-take relationship with neighbors. A land with NO Target which means that your sense and definition of “need” is quite manageable and you can take pride in the low-maintenance lifestyle that results from a lack of options. And lastly, but least redeemably, a land where there is no live football and watching the Super Bowl means having someone record and send it to you, at which point you’ll see the game maybe by the time the next season starts.
“It must be nice to have a reason to come home for a bit!” is a phrase I’ve heard over and over as I’ve reconnected with dear people on this side of the world. Something about that phrase makes me want to clamp my hands over my ears, shake my head, and argue; it makes me feel panicky inside and like a fish out of water. I want to respond by confessing that I cried about having to come back for three days before I decided to suck it up and just do it with a happy heart, as we tell the kids. Why? Because our “home” is not the place where we have the most convenience and comfort, it’s the place where Brent and I stumble through marriage; the place where we spend hours of conversation and prayer figuring out how to raise our three little people; the place our family sits down to a meal I’ve spent a good part of the day preparing in my own kitchen with my own knives; the place where we open our doors to friends, old and new, so we can share some food and a moment of life together; really, the place I feel I belong – that place is in Papua New Guinea. So while it’s nice to get away for a bit and see people we miss dearly, it doesn’t erase the ache I have for my home. Moreover, to hear someone calling this place, where I suddenly feel so out of place, “home” just doesn’t sit right.
BUT – yes, that nasty little conjunction that changes the whole trajectory of a thought – BUT when something happens like, you know, I blow out my knee playing basketball, our “home” is not capable of providing solutions. There is no way to diagnose, much less repair, a torn ACL in the middle of Papua New Guinea. This trip out of PNG is messing up my definition of “home” because now I am in an extremely vulnerable state both physically and emotionally and I am far, far away from the place I call home…which is where we all want to be when we’re feeling weak and discouraged.
What’s my current vulnerability look like? Well, at the outset it felt like a very dark place – a place where deception grows like mold in a moist corner and convinces me that I, above all others, am to be pitied. My husband’s gone for three weeks, in the middle of which I have a surgery that knocks me off my feet. My kids are being cared for by other people – driven to school, taken to parks, introduced to all the novelties of life in the States while I sit on a numb behind with my leg attached to an ice machine and a bending machine. I am unable to take care of even my basic needs without assistance and my person, my life partner, my husband, is not the one assisting me. I’m alone a lot, and anyone who knows me knows Alone and I aren’t good friends. Now, I’m a fairly optimistic person and I can talk my way out of these pathetic circumstances because they are just temporary, but the one sad reality I have trouble talking myself out of is that all this is happening a two-day journey’s distance away from the place I call home – away from the place I feel I belong and want to be. And the really crushing reality I’m waking up to is that because of where our home is, I can pretty confidently say that we will never be able to spend any truly traumatic times that come up at home. We will be displaced from home every single time anything like this happens.
BUT (there it is again, I’m just taking you all over the place, huh?) that dark place doesn’t last long because in these long hours of quiet and aloneness the light of Truth has broken through and the deception of self-pity has been destroyed by the presence of the Holy One. I am reminded that it’s a good thing to feel displaced from home this side of heaven. If we become comfortably convinced that our home is here, it is a thousand times more difficult to battle the complacency that threatens the spiritual health of believers today. Truth is, we aren’t home here; we don’t belong here; we should feel uncomfortable here. If our trust is in the finished work of Christ, we belong to him and with him and any amount of time he gives us here is meant to be spent with an intentionality that involves pointing others to Him. So in the end, I’m working to align my feelings with the beautiful truth that my home is not a place, it’s a Person. One day I will be truly home, united perfectly and completely with Him but until then, I can be “home” with Him any time and any place. Brent and I can stumble through marriage in Him, we can raise our kids in Him, we can share our food, time, and family with others in Him. But mostly, I belong in Him because I pledged my allegiance and my life to him many years ago and He hasn’t, and won’t, let go of me.