I meant to write this within a week of being back from India. It has been over a month now. Whoops.
One of the reasons it took me so long to write this is because I didn’t know what to write. I wanted whatever “it” was to impact people on the most profound level possible. Really, I think that has been the problem. I almost wanted my time in India to be some sort of “mountaintop experience,” one where I saw “the light” and everything afterward made complete sense.
Well, it didn’t. Not in the least bit.
Now, don’t get me wrong. I frickin’ loved my time in India. As I said before, I truly think I learned more about God and how He works (especially the immense, far-reaching power of His love) than in any other three-week span of my life. I learned so much about what it means to trust Him and rely on Him when all of my reason said otherwise. I learned that He cares, like really cares, about every single damn person on this world and He does so with intensity. I also learned a lot about how small I am, how big the world’s problems are, and how in any other circumstance (i.e., if I didn’t know Him), this whole realm would in the most heartbreaking way seem completely pointless and I would think I would have no ability to impact anyone. I learned that I can, though, impact people in a real way even when it seems impossible. I learned, more so than ever, that this whole following God thing really isn’t about me. At the same time, I saw how much He wants to use me and bless me and love me. Really, a lot of what I learned seems contradictory but it’s not at all. I guess if I had to sum it up in one statement, it’d be this: I saw in a huge way what the love and power of God are and how He transcends any barrier we can think of.
That being said, I also feel like I didn’t learn that much.
When I came back, things seemed to reset as if the whole trip didn’t happen. I wanted to scream out “IT DID HAPPEN! INDIA! GOD! HE LOVES US SO MUCH!” yet my outward tendency became one of simply going with the old flow of things. In simple terms, things essentially went back to normal. I saw myself falling into the same old problems I faced beforehand, some of them with even more difficulty. I think, though, the most difficult thing to grapple with was trying to figure out what God has in store for me now that things are “back to normal.”
Really, I think a lot of my internal struggles have been self-absorbed. I’ve found myself more emotional than I can remember (which, from what others have said, is probably a good thing). But, these emotions led me to thoughts such as “is what I’m doing important?” and “when will ‘it,’ as in the ‘big’ thing God wants from me, finally happen?” Not that these are inherently bad thoughts… I know God does actually want us to go out and be used by Him in huge ways. However, after about a month of thought on the subject, I’ve seen that a lot of my thoughts have been selfish.
One example of this is my desire to go to seminary. When I came back (and, to a lesser degree, before I left), I was really pushing for that to happen next year. The other guys who are talking about going, primarily Kyle and Adam, pretty much said that won’t be possible. It seems to be two years away, if not longer. To be short, I wasn’t all about that. I wanted it and I wanted it now. After some time, however, I reluctantly conceded. In my heart, though, the struggle lasted a little while longer. “Why wait?” I thought. I was frustrated, and this seemed like such a good opportunity.
In the past couple of weeks, though, I have been learning more about being content with such situations. To be honest, who knows if I’ll end up going to seminary. Who knows, really, if that’s what God wants to push me toward anyway? I still want to go in the realest sense, but I’m learning to wait on Him for such things. The following passage has helped me a lot with this:
Psalm 37:7 “Rest in the Lord and wait patiently for Him…”
So, weirdly enough, seeing all the amazing things God is doing in India led me most of all to learn patience. And, honestly, that’s awesome. One reason this is so cool is because an old conviction is surfacing, one of “loving whoever is in front of me.” Upon being back, I’ve seen so many problems in how I relate to people and really in how I love. A lot of the ministry I’m involved with isn’t going too hot, frankly. This may be in part because of the things I’ve been self-absorbed in and how I’ve developed a seeming tendency toward closing myself off toward people instead of openly sharing my life in love. This is a very recent realization, one that was helped to be made clear by some loving friends, so I am far from realizing most of its implications, I’m sure. However, I’m remembering another part of Psalm 37 that is giving me so much hope. Verse 4 reads:
“Delight yourselves in the Lord/ And He will give you the desires of your heart.”
Not only should we love whoever is in front of us, we also (as believers) need to make sure to not “forget our first love.” I think I may have forgotten that a bit through all of these forward-thinking thoughts about where my life is going. Instead of being wrapped up in the future, I’m excited to try and love God (delight in Him! Like, have fun) and love the people who are around me right now. I’m trying to trust Him with it, because one thing I learned is that He is simply good. I’m sure of one thing, that whatever He has in store for me is much better than whatever I can come up with.
Alright. That’s enough about me and my thoughts. I do also want to share one more insight from India. This actually comes after listening to Ben Stuart’s most recent teaching. While going over the first chapter of Philippians, he brings up a quote from a man named Matthew Parris. Parris is a devout atheist who is a well-respected journalist for The Times in England. You can find the full article here, which ironically enough is on Richard Dawkins’ website. After visiting Africa, Parris had this to say:
“Now a confirmed atheist, I’ve become convinced of the enormous contribution that Christian evangelism makes in Africa: sharply distinct from the work of secular NGOs, government projects and international aid efforts. These alone will not do. Education and training alone will not do. In Africa Christianity changes people’s hearts. It brings a spiritual transformation. The rebirth is real. The change is good. I used to avoid this truth by applauding – as you can – the practical work of mission churches in Africa. It’s a pity, I would say, that salvation is part of the package, but Christians black and white, working in Africa, do heal the sick, do teach people to read and write; and only the severest kind of secularist could see a mission hospital or school and say the world would be better without it. I would allow that if faith was needed to motivate missionaries to help, then, fine: but what counted was the help, not the faith. But this doesn’t fit the facts. Faith does more than support the missionary; it is also transferred to his flock. This is the effect that matters so immensely, and which I cannot help observing.”
I know that was a mouthful. I was going to condense it, but I just found it all to be so worth reading. These are exactly the things I saw and found while in India. The clear, real, life-changing difference Christians are having there is undeniable. If you don’t believe me, go there. Shoot, go to Africa if you’d prefer. I guess what I’m saying is that as a Christian I have never been more sure of the wide-reaching power of His love. It was so visible there, especially when contrasted by the despair that surrounds its current reach. I wanted to bring this up because I know some of the people who have been following along through this journey are not believers. I’m not trying to force anything on you, I just wish for you all that life has to offer and I saw there, more than anything, that getting a hold of said life has everything to do with knowing God.
Lastly, I want to thank you all for reading these posts. It meant a lot to me while I was over there and I hope something you read about was helpful in any, little way.