“Two years – Two years – Two years.”
The 24 months I had committed to serving in Asia grew longer, and my regard for myself as a global worker grew weaker, with every pass of my mop over the mottled stone floor. How could I ever survive a whole two years here?
Since arriving three days ago, I had stayed in my supervisors’ home, resting, getting oriented, buying appropriate clothes. I was delighted with everything–except the unexpected comforts.
“The great thing about Islamabad is that it’s only 15 minutes from Pakistan,” my supervisor had told me enthusiastically on our way home from the airport.
I looked at him quizzically.
“This capital city is much more comfortable than the rest of the country,” he assured me.
Comfortable! That’s not what I wanted! In my 21-year-old naiveté, my goal had been an isolated village–no amenities required. How had I ended up here? But I had a sneaking suspicion that my hunger for privation stemmed primarily from an unholy desire to impress my friends and family, not to mention myself and God. A few days later my hunch was confirmed, as my housemate showed me to my room in my new home and apologized for not having had time to clean it.
“You’ll probably want to move everything out and sweep and mop before you settle in.”
No problem. I tackled the job energetically, sweat pouring off me in the damp August heat.
The room was big and light enough, with windows on two sides and a door opening onto a second-story verandah. I had a private bath, and a big Persian rug graced the center of the floor. The room, however, was rather dingy, and my enthusiasm waned as my exertions yielded little result. After beating the dust out of my sleeping mats, I attacked the walls. But the paint was water soluble, and my efforts to erase the smudges only worsened them. All the while, my thoughts kept going returning to the family, friends, and comfortable life I had left in the States. Tomorrow was my birthday, but none of my team members knew it. As my spirits ebbed, I wondered, “If this is too much for me, how am I going to handle a lifetime in the real Third World?”
My roommate, a wiry, cheerful woman of intimidating energy, had planned a going-away party that night for a departing short-termer. I ventured out to join the party, and immediately began comparing myself with everyone there. I detected in those around me a self-abandonment and heart for God that I lacked. My concerns – even about my flawed character – were all about me. What kind of global worker was I?
After a while I returned to my room and resumed my endeavors. I arranged my belongings enough to allow me to sleep with a clear mind, and finally, drenched with sweat from my efforts, headed wearily for the shower. No water. It was the last straw. I laid down on my toshac and prepared to cry myself to sleep in a morass of self pity and self contempt.
It was then that the words of the Michael Card song* I had slipped in my tape player before lying down caught my attention: “In this fearful, fallen place, I will be your home.”
I sobbed harder. I knew it was true. Wherever I went, whatever my circumstances, God would be there, caring for and enabling me. He was the consistent, stable element that would welcome me home anywhere He sent me. More than that, His constant love would surround me in spite of all my pride and selfishness. His love is not in proportion to the sacrifices I make or deeds I perform. It’s not about me and my righteousness. It’s about God loving the unlovable, and giving us a home with Him.
* “I Will Be Your Home”, by Michael Card, 1992 Birdwing Music, from the album The Word.