Sometimes I want to go back to my princess bed, pull up the blankets, peel back the cover of an adventure filled novel, and allow my imagination to produce romanticized stories of life in other worlds. Sometimes I wish I could go back to naively thinking that everyone grew up the same way as me- building clubhouses and blanket fortresses, taking family road trips and playing spoons, sledding and riding my pony around the pasture. Sometimes I want to close my eyes tightly, cover my ears, and run. But now I know too much, I’ve seen too much.
I’ve had to hold a child that weighs much too little and put her down much too soon. I’ve had to look into the tear-filled eyes of a girl whose father only sees her body and the money it will make him and tell her that her Daddy in heaven is proud of her no matter what. I’ve had to pray for a pastor who only days before had his son stolen from him because he refused to stop preaching the gospel. I’ve had to pass hundreds of withered bony hands stretching up from a mat on the sidewalk in anticipation of a few rupees. I’ve visited village after village where generation after generation is stuck in a vicious cycle of poverty and immorality. I’ve seen believers turn on each other because of jealousy and greed. I’ve watched people fall on their faces before painted clay figures and waste their lives in a polluted “holy” river. I’ve heard countless secondhand stories of rape, murder, suicide, persecution, and robbery.
And that’s just this week.
When I go home I’ll get pats on my back. People will say how exciting my travels must have been and some will ask to hear stories. A few will even jealously express desire to see through my eyes. I will be treated like a noble small town hero and I’ll even be able to curl up in my princess bed. But now I’ve seen the side of the world that had only bounced around in my imagination and I’m not naive anymore. Now I know the un-romanticized reality. Now I have the powerful real-life missionary stories to tell, but with them come memories of heartbreak and pictures of lives left untouched.
Now I’m responsible. I’m unable to turn back and unable to become apathetic. I’m a soldier on assignment. I’m a harvester with my hands in the mud. And even though it hurts (a lot) seeing the fruit of a life changed or a heart mended is well worth the sacrifice. All the heartache is redeemed in the moment I see the smile of a girl who no longer has to sell her body because she’s been given a chance at a new life, or when an ex-orphan sits on my lap and says “I love you didi (sister)” with the voice at the pitch of a small mouse, or when the eyes of a Hindu woman well up as she experiences God’s love for the first time.
And that was just today.