I was so tired that I don’t even remember which of my kids was throwing the fit in the security line in some airport somewhere in America.
But I couldn’t make him or her stop, or move or hug or listen. Brad wasn’t with me—he’d gone on a different flight for some training. I was going to visit my parents in Colorado, but we’d gotten delayed along the way, adding another day to the grueling trip from Indonesia.
I looked around me and noticed the half-stares—the ones where people look, then look away. And I know what they were thinking.
That kid is out of control. That mom is a bad mom. What is wrong with them?
And I wanted to hold up a big sign that said,
“We’ve been traveling for four days through four countries with maybe, maybe four hours of total sleep and my kid is normally obedient, but he’s really, really tired and we need your patience.”
Just like sometimes I want to hold up a sign in this small town in Indonesia that says,
“Yes, I’m different. I do things that you consider to be weird, and I may get this whole living-in-your-culture thing wrong sometimes, but I’m really, really trying, and I need your patience.”
And thankfully, since Indonesians are about the friendliest people in the world, I usually get that patience, and maybe a piece of candy for my kids, and a free bag of rice from Brad’s passengers and help carrying my groceries to the car from the store clerk who knows my kids’ names and the chance to have some really special relationships.
But now, as I prepare to start a seven-month furlough traveling the States again, I need another sign. Like one that says,
“I don’t have it all together, and I both like my life in Indonesia and sometimes want to escape this life and while I’m speaking in front of your church, I don’t have all the answers, and my life isn’t really set to some beautiful spiritual song like you see in that video, and sometimes it’s really hard, but it’s hard to admit that it’s hard when you serve people with way worse problems, and yes, that’s probably my kid who took your kid’s toy in Sunday school, and I know I look American to you, but I don’t feel like I fit in here anymore, and I don’t really fit into Indonesia completely, oh, and I’m pretty tired because I was up all last night with my jet-lagged baby, and let's be real, I'm tired because I've spent years living in a noisy place where it's hard to ever get sleep, and while yes, I consider myself to be a deeply spiritual person, I most look forward to wandering the aisles of Target with a Starbucks tea in my hand and no one staring at me after I’ve finally gotten a decent haircut, and please don’t judge, and be patient with me while I take this break.”
Oh, and can someone give me a hand holding up this sign since it’s going to have to be a pretty big one?
So, if you see the lady with the screaming kid in the airport, it might just be me, with my invisible sign, asking for a bit of extra grace.
photo credit, Joe Shlabotnik