I’m not sure what it says about my life (or me, for that matter) that the absolute highlight of my day was stumbling upon this delightful bag.
I just opened it, and I am now savoring each and every little green and red MSG flavor fleck. I am experiencing the “ballistic Doritos crunch as it unleashes an explosion of cool ranch flavor in” my mouth. It’s awesome.
It’s like being home.
Until the bag is gone.
I find myself searching for familiarity a lot these days. Mostly in food… I suppose because it’s the most tangible way to “experience” the familiar. I’m actually texting my roommate right now about all the great import products they have at the Hisense grocery store near the seaside (we cope in similar fashion). I’ve also spent a good deal of time lately taking in episodes of 30 Rock and The Office on DVD, and now with my fancy, outsmart China VPN thing, I can trick the internet into thinking I’m in America and watch anything I want on Hulu! So between Hulu, Facebook, and a Chinese website called, www.youku.com, I can waste tons of time escaping into mindless television shows and movies. Just what I intended for my adventure-of-a-lifetime move to China.
I’m having a little bit of a hard time.
This morning I went to church and I found myself agitated and pouty throughout the entire service. All I could think about was how much I wanted to be at my own church. I thought about how great the services are, and how I could walk through the Courtyard and be stopped at any point by people who love me, and how I never had to sit alone because of my three incredible best friends. I thought of being hug-handled by Mary Ann, watching Joe dance at the door as he welcomes people to service, saying “hello” to Brooks in his walk-by way of saying it, sharing a workspace with Christy and Kristen and having fun visitors (you know who you are) sit on the blue couch to discuss important “work-related” matters, making coffee with Rhonda and learning how to be like her someday when I grow up. I thought about NLMI and Starting Point and worship and communications and being a part of something so authentic and exciting and impacting. And I thought about how I traded all that in for this life I have in China.
Did I do the right thing?
Am I doing the right things now?
That’s where I’m unclear.
I know I was supposed to come here. Leaving everyone and everything was not easy (it still isn’t), but I know it’s what God was asking me to do. And I know He was asking me to because it was right in the midst of SO many good things. I wasn’t running away. I liked my life. I was doing something worthwhile and living a pretty great life with amazing friends and family. I was living it up in green pastures… at least that’s how it feels now that I’m on this other patch of grass.
Honest moment: I don’t like teaching English. I’m not very good at it. I feel like I’m an insult to the profession. Real teachers are incredible people with incredible skill who spend time and energy and money refining their craft and using their amazing abilities to impart knowledge. I show up at work, pull a blue folder out of a cabinet and follow an outline to teach people about cooking methods and business telephone etiquette. The blue folder tells me everything I need to know, except how to explain nonexistent grammatical rules and how to define everyday words that, in the moment, seem completely indefinable. I like to write in and speak the English language, not teach it. But here I am in China teaching this strange and complex language six (!) days a week. Did I really sign up for this? Or did I mess something up?
Even telling the Bible stories is proving terribly challenging. The thing about Chinese students is that if they are not impressed or amused by you, they have no problem walking out of your class (if they have the option). The other day my English Corner began with about 12 or 15 students. Slowly they left, one by one, until only four remained. It was SO hard not to take personally. I truly, honestly do not know what to do. I know that I need to spend more time preparing and praying and trusting that the Lord will show up and do something unseen. I guess I just want Him to do something seen. I want the people who give me condescending and “isn’t she so cute for believing that” looks to come face to face with the God they scoff. Not to be put in their place, but so that they can know Him. I don’t want to just tell stories about God. I want to put God on display. I want his love and power to be demonstrated…
“And they went out and preached everywhere, the Lord working with them and confirming the word through the accompanying signs.” Mark 16:20
This is what I want. But I don’t just want this in the classroom. I want this on the city streets, in my apartment building, on the bus, at the beach, in restaurants and shops and street markets. I want to leave a trail of miracles and hope and life. I want to leave the reality of Jesus with every person I pass.
Unfortunately, I’ve brought a bit of complacency to China with me. I thought it would be easier to be spiritual here, away from everybody and all the things in life that are usually so distracting. Turns out, distractions can present themselves anywhere. And I’m not just talking about 30 Rock and The Office and movies on youku. The real distractions are my own sense of inadequacy and failure, my fear of intimacy and loneliness. My laziness. So rather than face these things and combat them with the truth, I escape into the tidy world of twenty-two minute sitcoms, where bite-sized life problems are easily resolved and wrapped in humor. It’s easier that way. Until I leave my living room and collide with my own reality.
I probably won’t stop watching TV. It’s not the problem – plus it’s funny. But what I need to do is begin to prioritize what is important to me here in China. I need to kick my distractions in the face and stop being a baby. Do I want to go back to America having learned nothing? I can be faced with many lessons and choose not to be shaped by them. Do I want that? Do I want to live here and miss God opportunities because I’m too busy wishing I were back at home languishing in, what appears to be from this view, greener grass?
Why am I here?
What’s it all about?
Am I finally ready to press in and find out, or will I continue to mope and escape and stand around while God is waiting for me to take ground?
“How long will you wait before you begin to take possession of the land that the LORD, the God of your fathers, has given you?”