Thursday, April 11, 2013

Coming Back Home

A few days ago I woke up in the middle of the night tense and sweating. “It’s April,” I thought. "And if you’re going to go to Swaziland this summer, you need to seriously buckle down on fundraising."

Unable to get back to bed, I sat up and began typing out a draft of a fundraising letter to send out to friends and family. I started to tell the story of how I got to Swaziland last year, of my desire to serve, of my lack of faith that God would provide a way for this to happen, of that crazy t-shirt contest, and of the journey that changed my heart forever.

But just a few paragraphs in, I had to stop. My arms were shaking, my stomach felt more twisted than a pretzel, and my heart was pounding in my chest. “Why are you even writing this?” a sinister voice whispered in my head. “Do you really think your letter will move anyone’s heart? Do you really think this matters enough to anyone else besides you? You’re just being selfish asking other people to help you.”

Yes, even after all that my journey to Swaziland has done to give me faith in love, compassion, and miracles, I still found myself in a dark room that night wracked with fear and doubt.

“Maybe you should reconsider this…” I told myself. “I mean, just because going to Swaziland was the right thing to do last year, doesn’t mean it is this year.”

I tried to make up excuses. I decided that maybe it was more important for me to work and get some money during that time in July I’d be gone. Maybe, I needed to spend that time with my family instead. Maybe there was some camp in my hometown where I could be of more use. The list goes on and on.

But somewhere in the middle of this mental chaos, I had to face the truth. And the truth is that

I’m afraid.

I’m afraid to ask people to help me get to Swaziland, because I’m afraid to reopen that part of my heart to others. When I came back from Africa last year, I vowed never to cover up how this trip impacted me. I vowed to continue to tell my story, to show people how important this was and how much love I have overflowing in me for a place on the other side of the world. And yet, it’s become painfully obvious just how much of my experience in Swaziland that I have buried inside myself. I have piled pounds and pounds of dirt over the spot where my story rests because I still can’t find the words to use that will make other people see the light of God in the faces of those children in the way that I saw it, or feel the simultaneous heartache and joy of Ludlati CarePoint the way I felt it.

But my fear goes beyond that. I’m afraid to ask people to help me get to Swaziland, because ultimately, I’m afraid that they will. I’m afraid that in its own unique way, like last year, I’ll experience a miracle. I’m afraid God will provide. I’m afraid that I’ll find myself back on that plane to Swaziland, back in Ludlati CarePoint, back with the very children who stole my heart, back to the place I love.

And to be completely honest, I’m afraid to fall in love again, because the kind of love that happens in Swaziland really isn’t easy. This was the love that not only exposed me to the deep and agonizing wounds of others, but also to my own brokenness and inadequacy. This love wasn’t shy. It looked me directly in the eyes and said, “So, what are you going to do about this? How can you solve these massive and overwhelmingly devastating problems?” And I feel almost ashamed to look back, close to a year later, and admit that I still don’t have that answer. I still don’t know.

And finally, I think the biggest thing that I’m afraid of, the thing that makes me want to hide away in the security of my own bedroom, the thing that really and truly terrifies me about taking the journey to Swaziland again is this:

I’m afraid of coming back home.

I’m afraid of tasting my meals from the mouth of a starving child. I’m afraid of walking the well-kept roads of my neighborhood with my unblistered feet, bound up in tidy new shoes. I’m afraid of feeling the fullness of my family from the heart of someone who has none. I’m afraid of looking at my culture through the windows of a one-room hut with a crumbling roof.

I’m afraid to go back. I’m afraid to not have the answers. I’m afraid to not be able to explain the story of Swaziland to others. I’m afraid of falling in love once again.

But despite all of this, despite the fear and doubt and feelings of inadequacy that plague me, there is another voice whispering to me, a voice that has occupied my heart since I first thought about going to Swaziland in January of 2012. This voice has never stopped repeating the same message, over and over and over to me, no matter how many times I have tried to plug my ears or scream to drown it out. This is the voice that says,


And I know that no matter how hard it will be to come back home,  I have to listen.