It’s 1 AM and my lungs catch themselves as the cold air from the vent above my bed circulates, as if the air itself is almost too much for me to handle. It reminds me of those summers I’d spend working outside—how the heat began to feel so normal to the bones of my body. I’d walk into the bank each Friday to deposit my paycheck and realize that I didn’t like the air. The temperature change was too drastic for me to adjust to.
And here I am. In a bed I thought I’d missed—covered with soft blankets and clean sheets. In a room that makes me remember that a home in India is smaller than where I keep my clothes and books and ornately decorated photographs. With so many thoughts and emotions that all I seem to be able to produce are short, choppy sentences. Short, tight sighs. And everything feels so very cold. I wake to the image of a girl with Tuberculosis handing me something to drink. There’s a sleeping baby next to me on the bed that serves as a couch, in an area the size of my bathroom here in the States. I was afraid then. Sweating. Nervous. I so desperately did not want to find myself sick again—too weak to lift my head or too feverish to even release a prayer to God. But now, I realize that I felt less overwhelmed in that tiny room—with their joy and hospitality and smiles, than I feel now. Alone. In the dark. With the air streaming down upon me. It’s hard to explain to people why I’d rather be in the tiny ant infested room I’ve slept in the past six weeks. It’s hard to explain why I’d rather be walking on a floor that is always sandy or laying down in a tiny bed at night, knowing that bed bugs were biting every inch of my body. It’s hard to explain why I’d want to eat each meal from an outdoor kitchen covered in cobwebs and dirt and cockroaches—or why I’d miss hand washing my clothes and hanging them to dry—praying they wouldn’t mildew. It’s hard to explain the aching that comes when you think about a little girl who held your hand and cried because she had to sneak out and lie to her father just because she wanted to come pray.
I am glad to be home. I am glad to feel the love of my family and friends, and I really am grateful to be a U.S citizen. I’m overwhelmingly grateful for my education and the opportunities I’ve been given. I know that in time, life will fall back into normal routine and I’ll grow accustom to water with ice and a closet full of clothing options and streets that aren’t covered in heaps of trash and piles of cow crap. I’ll grow used to the quietness of my suburban street—where driveways are filled with five cars that we’ve all, including myself, taken advantage of. My car could send so many children to school, who will never learn how to read or write their own language. It will feel normal to receive luxuries and treats and there’s a good chance that complacent Christianity might feel normal—that apathy would somehow suffice—that I would forget all that God showed me about the American church and how much we focus on the presentation instead of the spirit. The thought of that scares me. It scares me because I do not ever want to be who I was before my feet touched the ground on Indian soil. I’ve seen pain. I’ve seen possessed people. I’ve seen doubt and idolatry and a country so full of chaos and filth that only by the spirit is someone able to walk through each day. But I’ve also seen healings. And praises. And breakthroughs. I’ve seen love and happiness and hospitality so overwhelming that it makes me sick thinking about how a “dirty home” or an “empty” pantry or “not enough time” keeps us from allowing people to stop by at any point. I’ve seen the sun rise and set each day on something God made to be so beautiful. India is beautiful. Its people are beautiful. God’s love in the midst of the broken is beautiful.
I wake to the air conditioning, and I don’t know what to do with it. I don’t know what to do with the tension that exists within this large chasm of luxury and poverty. I don’t know what to do with the images of the children or the conversations with the girls at the stitching center—or with the simple absence of my roommate Haley. I don’t know what to do with my convictions or how to practically live them out. I don’t know, but He does. And if I have learned anything from these past five weeks, it is that His spirit is gentle and guiding and that if I will daily keep step with it, He will show me. So for now, I scoot farther down into the covers of his love to keep the air from hitting me so hard.