When we were considering our housing options for Charly’s PhD field research on Chinese Muslim minority peoples, Charly asked me what I thought about possibly living with a family in the village.
“Absolutely not,” I replied. “We’re home schooling and we need our own space.”
I’ve found that sometimes God delights in changing an “absolutely not” into a “well, maybe” and then into an “OK, I’ll give it a try...” I believe God has a sense of humor and He has specific purposes for stretching me. Out of my comfort zone. So I can grow deeper in my dependence on Him.
We don’t live with our host family all the time, as they have a permanent home in a city 2 hours away. But they come to the village somewhat regularly for Memorial Festivals and stay for a week or so, and we overlap with them then.
Overall, our host family has been very gracious and hospitable to us. We have all learned a lot together. Different cultures. Different customs. Learning to respect. Us and Them. East and West. In shared space.
Last Monday, our host family was here to oversee some repair work on the roof, and I ended up with some kind of stomach bug (or maybe it was mistakenly drinking some unboiled water). I slept on the couch most of the afternoon, and
told me the next day that the wife said to her, “No wonder your Mom’s sick, all she does is sleep all day!” Jordan
Oh well. I know she didn’t mean to be lacking in compassion, she just didn’t understand me.
On Saturday, our host family had a Memorial Festival to commemorate the 3rd year death anniversary of our host’s first wife. I really wanted to be helpful in the kitchen with the massive food preparation for 100 people. But unfortunately I woke up with a bad migraine and had to stay in bed most of the day. At one point, our host came into the room where I was resting, to show the boys which prayer rugs needed to be moved, and said to me, “What’s wrong with you? How come you’re sick again?” On each of my trips to the outhouse I imagined the relatives who had come to help, watching me and thinking, “How lazy. Avoiding work. Good for nothing.” The word that God gave me to focus on instead of those condemning ones was “Immanuel.” He is with me. It’s ok if I’m not understood.
As I lay in bed, I thought about the 15 year old girl I met on Mother’s Day who opened her heart and shared with me about her Closed Doors for the future. And I thought that I live behind Closed Curtains on days like this. When I’m unproductive. Useless. Trapped by pain. So I can relate somewhat to the way she was grieving the death of her dreams. After
CJ read that blog post, he said, “I don’t know that what you said to her about contentment and God’s sovereignty was wrong to say.” I responded, “I’m not sure either. Maybe what I said did encourage her. I just felt convicted that I was speaking to her as a ‘wealthy American’ with so many more opportunities and options than she has. I really don’t know what it’s like to be in her shoes.”
Because honestly that’s one of my greatest fears. When someone is hurting, to say something with good intentions that ends up causing more hurt than help. To a friend who has lost a parent, lost a child, lost a husband. Dealing with divorce, facing cancer, single parenting... I don’t know what those pains feel like because I haven’t been through them myself. I have felt my own pain, but it’s different. And I know that the well-intentioned words of others can hurt sometimes. Unintentionally. We all face different pain and we all deal with it in our own ways. Some want compassion. Some want distraction. Some want prayer. Some want practical life help. Some want medical help/advice. Some want to be left alone. Some want company.
But everyone, I believe, longs to be understood.
How comforting that Jesus knows our unique pain and grief, in a way that no one else can. He can relate to our feelings of being misunderstood because He’s felt them himself. And He can help us as we try our best to understand others. To be there for them in the way that most ministers to their heart needs.
Immanuel. God with us. Wherever we are and whatever we face. He is with us.