When people ask about my time in Mumbai and I tell people about that I feel *homesick*, they scratch their heads and look perplexed. “Why?”, they ask. Not because they can’t comprehend it, but because there’s so much contrast between my desire to go back and the way I’ve presented the city. I’ve taken pictures of trash and dirt and described pain and injustice. What do I mean, then, when I say “It’s such a beautiful place”? It took me a while to figure out where the disconnect was- but I’ve think I’ve figured it out. I know what it is about India. And it’s not just India.
When deciding where to buy my first house, I was drawn to the most impoverished zip-code in the state of Indiana. I would love to say that I did it for some noble cause or because I wanted to be intentional about glorifying the Lord while living in community with my neighbors. But the truth is, I moved here for the same reason you moved to your neighborhood. I just loved it. And it took someone recently asking me, again, “why?”- with that same perplexed look in their eyes—before I saw the parallels.
You see, God has been at work in my life long before I ever realized it. I didn’t move here to save my neighbors. This is just the heart He gave me. When I look around my neighborhood, I don’t see poverty. I see deep relationships, rich culture, and triumph of the human spirit… and I want to be a part of it. I also see the absence of some of life’s greatest distractions: competition, materialism, pride, etc. There is a simplicity here that makes it easier to stay in touch with what’s really important. And it draws me in.
If you know me at all, you know that more often than not- I come with a camera. I take pictures like a tourist, anywhere that I am. But I’m not taking pictures of the pain- I’m taking pictures of the beauty. And I’m finally understanding that what I think is beautiful, sometimes just makes people scratch their heads. One of my favorite things to do is walk around after a storm and take pictures of the reflections in the rain puddles, amidst the trash-strewn alleys. There’s a contrast there that symbolizes resiliency. I love anything that is real and raw and vulnerable. There is something SO trustworthy about that.
India was all of this… amplified. It felt like home, because it WAS home. I didn’t experience the anticipated culture shock because “home”, I’m finding, is any place that aligns with the heart that the Lord gives us. And isn’t that the way that it always works?
I tend to forget that there’s anything out of the ordinary or unique about my scenario, until someone from my home town comes to visit. Inevitably, there is some level of “culture shock”… and I always find myself a little baffled. I’ve even found myself wondering when that person became so dramatic. But they aren’t being dramatic. It’s just an experience I can’t relate to, because I’ve never experienced it.
I’m different. And I’m ok with that. This has always been my comfort zone. And that’s a comfort that can only come from the Lord.
But here’s the thing. We know that the Lord works all things together for His glory. ALL things. He doesn’t provide us with a sense of peace and comfort simply because He loves us (although he does) or because he doesn’t want us to struggle. He expects us to act. To practice discipleship. The gifts he gives us are not to be wasted.
Being in India was, for me, a Sweet Spot. According to Webster’s Dictionary (ok, I’m lying- it was dictionary.com… that just sounds so millennial. But I digress….), the term “sweet spot” was originally used to describe “the area around the center of mass of a bat or racket, or head of a club that is the most effective part with which to hit a ball.” In effect, it’s when all of the factors come together in just the right way, so that success is met naturally. And isn’t that what happens when we use our God-given gifts and purposes? That’s not to say that we’re not in the center of God’s will every time that we face challenge and tribulation. Nor does is it a promise to safeguard us from trial and heartache. We just have to remember that His ways are not our Ways and “success” is not always what we think.