Thursday, January 26, 2012

Thorny Issues: Part 2: Disappointing People

This week, I’m posting about some of the real issues involved with living and working overseas. Today, I share what I’ve always really wanted to tell the people I serve.

You see me towering over the crowd, sweat dripping down my white cheeks, holding onto my small kids. You pinch the cheeks—theirs, not mine. You snap our pictures with your phones, tell my little girl she looks like a doll, and give my son candy. You compliment me, make me feel beautiful, despite all my messiness.

You may have many thoughts about me. That I’m rich because I’m white. That I’m loose because I’m an American. That I understand you because I live in your country.

But what you may not think right away is, I am going to disappoint you.

You’ve given me so many things through the years. Gifts for my kids. Cakes for my birthdays. Spicy foods for my dinner table.

I try to give, too. And you are gracious, smiling, even though I cook differently, celebrate holidays privately, speak your language strangely, and raise my kids with different methods.

I want you to know, I’m trying to get it right. Studying your culture. Listening to your advice. Choosing to change my core ideas about how to do life.

But you may see my mistakes more than my efforts. My wrongs more than my intentions. My hiding more than my opening.

And though I usually try to go all the way, I still fall short. And sometimes I was up all night with my child, and so I don’t even try. I see your disappointment in the faltering smile. And I feel my own disappointment in myself. And then I just want to hide. Behind closed doors and painted-on smiles.

But then I remember I didn’t come here to make you like me. I don’t serve here to impress you with my generosity. I didn’t move here to become someone else.

I came here, hoping you’d overlook my failures to experience His love. To look through my white skin to notice His heart. To see past my sweat to see His blood. Shed for you.

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