A response to Ann Voskamp’s post of the same title.
|A field in Tak province, Thailand|
When I first see her life, married to a piece of earth, in a house built with their own hands, and guided by the rhythms of the changing seasons I want to plant roots and tie myself to a piece of land as well. My heart is in the Canadian prairies and my soul longs for a place to call home to settle in, to grow old.
I want my children to know a single place that they can always go back to, that doesn’t change, like the farm my grandparents still live on, the house my uncle built there where he and his wife have lived every year of their married life, raised sons and daughters now moved out, married, moved on.
I’d never wanted that before. Blessed with place in abundance I moved out, and moved on. I moved 9 times my first year of marriage, purposely tying myself to a man who wouldn’t be tied to one place instead. We’ve never really settled anywhere long, all in search of a life worth living and a place to serve.
|Burmese women harvesting|
It’s harder than you might think, finding a place to serve, a way to live like Jesus as a mother, even if your heart is wide open to do it and you spend a decade knocking on doors and chasing opportunities down. We chafed against our wealth, and poverty, simultaneously because, if we were rich serving would be simpler, not worrying about a family to feed, yet, we are so rich by comparison to those we wish to serve and how do we find a way to go down, when all around us are looking to move up?
Then Ann writes about sky, and earth, and gifts abundant and my heart for the first time turns toward home. I find contentment in the life we have. I am at peace, loving the children I have been given to love, making my bed and lying in it.
We make our peace, we settle in, to a place, a direction and there is contentment.
In a second that all changes, a knock on our door, another door slams shut, and this one swings wide open. We go through and spiral downward, bit by bit.
|Mae Kasa hotspring, Thailand|
The downwardly mobile live with uncertainty. The lease is month to month, the things never really ours, the purchases weighed in terms of perhaps giving them away in less than a year. We lay slow plans to move to Thailand, to serve orphanages and help them become self sustaining, and go beyond that to make it so the community doesn’t need an orphanage anymore. We will serve these children and we don’t know where the journey will take us. Do I want this anymore? Do I really want to give up my pillow and comfortable bed?
I read Katie’s life on the screen and I wonder if a mother should do this. Can I do this? Should a mother cart her kids halfway around the world? Should she let them forgo the things that all the other neighborhood kids have for the sake of a life of service? Am I shepherding my children well while I serve these abandoned and forgotten ones?
There is a man in Thailand who Aaron has met once or twice. He comes to the teaching sessions. Five years ago Jesus got a hold of him and he’s never been the same. He loves everyone, murderers, outcasts, he takes them home, treats them like brothers, and they like the way Jesus loves through him and they keep coming back. Several of them now know Jesus too and are preparing to go back into conflict torn war zones to tell the people there of the Jesus who loves even murderers. I wonder if I could ever love like that.
|Charis Community Mae Kasa|
I wonder if I am worthy to serve one who loves with such abandon, me, with my careful ways and wanting to know what tomorrow holds and the year after that and all the years at once.
My heart wants an anchor, a place to put down roots, yet here I am out on a limb, pulse racing, waiting day by day on a path that is uncertain. I remember when I was stuck in place and how I longed to get to here, to have a chance to love, “in a big way”. Yet it was loving in small ways, day in, day out, doing my best to love faithfully the ones who are put in my path that prepared me for when my path would cross so many.
For it’s easy to believe it would be easier to be like Jesus if only the circumstances of how I live were different. The truth is wherever I am, and whatever I’m doing, I’m still stuck with the same old me. I still have the same old struggles, the same character flaws, the same old fear when it comes to loving with abandon, the same longing for the thing I don’t have, the place I couldn’t wait to escape.
Now I know that it’s not the place that matters, or the type of people. It’s not the situation that’s in need of change, but the heart. My heart must learn to respond to the one in front of me, to love the one, before the many. We all need love, and we all need to learn to give love. The big scary things and places that some of us find ourselves giving love in and the people with more obvious needs don’t change that. In the end love is the same, and only love can truly change hearts, no matter where we are.
All photos taken by Aaron on his last trip to Thailand for The Charis Project.