I went there, I talked to many people, I saw many things. I felt strangely at home, missed being "over there".
But I had decided that I would purpose to move between groups. Different groups of people doing different things, and I wanted to make sure I moved from group to group so I got a better idea of what is going on. You'd think it would be a simple plan.
It wasn't. I forgot about something. We aren't perfect.
I think this very fact is what made my heart ache the most while I was over there. Of course, there is a horrible need, there are awful stories, suffering is so stark there. But what made my heart ache was relationships. Strained relationships.
I saw them in families. I saw them among team members. I saw them between people in different teams. Struggled to even manage to get from one person to another at one time because the tension between these two people was almost palpable. It hurt to see.
Now I have been around long enough to know the causes of some of the different tensions between people. They come from differences. Different views on how we should do things. Different priorities. Different cultures. Different ideas. Different takes on past events. There are stresses left from years ago that just simmered. There are stresses that appear suddenly in the tired heat of the moment.
But primarily differences.
I understand some of them because I have my own. My own differences that are different than others. There is one thing that marks me as different from most of the people out there... leaves me alone at times, fitting neither completely into any group. Even in my own team, I am different.
I picked up a book in the last house I visited on my way home. It was talking about the verse in John 13:35 "By this will all men know you are my disciples if you have love for one another." My heart was already sore after two weeks, two great weeks, with great people who I respect. People who I look up to. But my heart hurt watching the relationships that were just strained. I sat thinking about it, thinking about my own relationships - how quick I am to take offense, how long I hold on to slights against me and grudges, how quick I am to judge another's intent and heart, how endlessly picky I am about small things in people.
I had been in homes where there was deep hurt over things that could be fixed if only we would talk openly. If we would listen openly. Without defending. If we would realize that how God calls me to be is not the way He calls all to be. That He has different paths for different children of His. And the results of those different paths, the influences of those different paths are His responsibility to take care of. The different ways we each are and how we handle emotions and struggles are all different, and we need to treat each other with grace. Not to expect others will deal with situations like we would.
We need grace. I need grace. And I wondered, if we learned more of the grace of God, the unconditional delight that He has in each one of us, if we would show that in how we loved each other. And if we loved each other with the unrestrained grace and delight of God right in the face of our failings and difference, if then the world would know we are His. If we valued each other like He values us.
Broken relationships. Strained relationships. They hurt. They bring tears in the night. I hurt when I think of how we hurt God with this. I'm looking at my relationships in a new light - in how I talk of people, how I treat people, even my unspoken attitude towards others. How are we hurting God in looking critically at ones He deeply loves? I'm letting that question sit in my thoughts for awhile.
And I just wanted to say that I met no one "over there" who was so bad with their relationships that it shocked me. It was stuff I myself have done and thought. It was only the privilege to see it from outside that I was given. Also, I met people who totally impressed me, with whom I felt at home with, free to open up. Maybe it was these that gave me the courage to question my norm.
Also, after my huge struggle with God about a certain person in my team, I'm sitting here watching God slowly change my heart. I did not WANT to love here, not at all. Wasn't even too thrilled about having to "get along with" this person. But God is slowly changing my heart. One of those ways was by showing me the pain that relationships not lived in grace cause... not wanting to cause more pain. I want to love others with the poured out grace God has loved me with. But now to how that looks like in every day life?