After eleven days in India, three days in Lisbon, and two days in London, I’ve been given the gift of an hour on a couch with nothing to do but write. I can’t begin to scratch the surface of what happened in India— the people I saw, the spiritual realities I encountered—but still I have to try. It feels as if I snapped a thousand polaroid pictures when I was there, and now begins the process of developing them. One at a time. Storing some closer than others. Leaving a few on the shelf to think about later. The process is daunting because I can’t undo what I saw or erase the experiences I had. I’m the one being developed, really, and there’s no way to stop it.
When I was going to sleep last night, all I wanted was to be at my apartment watching Friends and drinking cider in my pajamas. I know it sounds silly, but I’ve felt bare and exposed before God for two weeks and my heart so deeply desired something comfortable. Anything comfortable. As I watched an episode on my phone, I cried and cried because I know things aren’t the same anymore. I’ve changed.
Most of my journal entries from India say something to the effect of, “God, don’t let me miss what you’re doing here. Change me, change me, change me.” Some days I only wrote “change me” over and over on the page. And he did. It’s strange because nothing about India was shocking to me. It was actually what I expected. Since leaving, though, I feel in my heart that I’m not the same. I can’t put my finger on it, I’m just different.
I guess it’s easy to forget what really matters until you’re faced with what really matters. We’re so wrapped up with money and jobs and affirmation and comfort that we’ve spun ourselves into a whirlwind that keeps us away from reality. Living in a country of extreme wealth is a gift in some ways, as the Church has more resources (than any other time in history) to bring the Gospel to the nations. At the same time, wealth and comfort have so deeply grabbed hold of our hearts that we’ve forgotten what eternally counts.
We’re so distracted. I’m so distracted.
And It’s not just about money. It’s about the primary concern of our lives. What am I really, actually living for? We paint crosses on our jobs and relationships and other idols in an effort to both serve ourselves and appease God, but God requires us to sacrifice everything with the single aim of glorifying Him. Is this my life’s cause?
The Church in India understands this. They do not aim to please themselves and appease God. Instead, they’ve given up everything to know him and sacrificed their lives to identify with him. And the joy they have is indescribable.
In this moment, I’d love nothing more than to say I relate to my brothers and sisters in India. The truth is, though, I more relate to the rich man who walked away from Jesus with great sadness after he was told to give away his possessions to the poor. The sacrifice seems too great to bear— giving up the American dream to die to myself and live for Christ. But then I think of the deep joy possessed by the Church in India—unshakeable, unexpected joy— that only comes with great sacrifice. They understand what really matters, and in turn, they are much wealthier than the richest people on earth. Their reward is far greater than the American dream. They’ve gained eternity.
Jesus did not call the rich man to give up treasure. Jesus called the rich man to gain real, eternal treasure. Yet the rich man walked away in sadness, turning his back on what mattered. He lost sight of eternal treasure and forfeited everlasting joy.
In the process of developing what it looks like to lay down my life in Nashville at the age of 23, I am sure there will be plenty of nights I cry while watching Friends in my pajamas. But I will not turn around and walk away. I can’t. I am changed. I refuse to forfeit the joy God offers me for treasure that disappears in a moment.
And when I am tempted to run, I will fall to the ground and whisper, change me, change me, change me, change me, change me.