Monday, November 30, 2009

Where do I go from here?

Where do I even begin? Quite frankly, I'm utterly brokenhearted at being home again. I love my country, I love my family and my friends and sure, the comforts of home are nice. But, I left my heart in Central America and I think its there to stay. Its been years since I've cried this much this many days in a row. It was an incredible week, really, it was. Yet, my heart is devastated at the pain some of those children are going through. Take away the poverty, take away the lack of clean water, take away the hunger, and its still terrible. There are still gangs, there are still fatherless boys, motherless girls. There is still death, there is still tragedy, there is still loss. Add the poverty, hunger, dirty water, and it nothing short of shocking. God broke my heart much more on this trip. I sit here, with a pain in my chest greater than I can even describe. My heart has literally been aching these past few days. I feel shattered inside, I feel lost, I feel completely torn in two. I fell in love with those smiling faces with sad eyes. My soul is bound with a community that I never would have expected. Had you told me 2 years ago that I would be aching for Guatemala, and I doubt I would have believed you. I expected my heart to be sold to Africa and Middle East. Don't get my wrong, I feel tremendously for that region of the world. My heart hurts for the children of Uganda and I know that it always will. I hurt for the people of the Middle East and the way their land has been torn apart by war. But that is an expected pain for me. Guatemala hit me like a ton of bricks that came out of nowhere.

Two boys in particular stole my heart completely. Their home lives are enough to make anyone cry. I have a distinct remembrance of both of them from my last trip. One of the boys stands out in my memory because of the intense sadness that covered him. His eyes seemed to be pleading for an escape, for a respite from the daily existence that was his life. I had a few pictures of him, smile-less and empty. Things haven't changed since February. At the start of the week, he caught my eye right away, still stoic in expression. He ended up in one of my classes, and ritual began between us where I would give him a huge hug and kiss each time I saw him and would then proceed to push up the corners of his mouth into a smile. After a few minutes, it would typically turn into a real smile, however slight it might be. There would be times where the weight on his shoulders would win out, leaving that small mouth in a straight line. Heartbreaking doesn't begin to describe how I felt looking at this kid.

Something happened with him though... Perhaps it was the relief of being away from home. Or perhaps it was his soul getting a chance to express itself. Whatever it was, I began to see this boy come alive in my class. The transformation was shocking in its unexpectancy. He would get so excited when the music came on, as if it was transcending in its presence. That was the moment where the awful bus ride out to the camp, the heat, the sweat, the preparation, the anxiety was all completely worth it. Just for that moment of seeing him smile, unabashed and free. I swear I could practically hear the heavens singing the hallelujah chorus, rejoicing as much as I was at this boy being freed from the sadness that surrounded him.

I spent a chunk of the week going out of my way to make this boy feel loved. By the end of the week, the change in this kid was incredible. He was smiling and laughing and playing. I found out that the other boy that had taken me so much was his brother, so I knew that the same situation and sadness was around him as well. I don't recall ever feeling such violent love for kids that I just met. All I wanted to do was to help take the hurt away, to remove them from their reality and give them some relief. I loved them so much that it actually hurt.

I believe that I got a small taste of how Christ loves us. In a way that is violent in its sheer power, all consuming in its force. That love is nearly suffocating, to the point where breathing almost becomes optional because your heart is so full that your lungs don't have room to expand. Its the kind of love that takes you over, that would give you the courage to do anything, give any sacrifice.

It was hard seeing this little 12 year old boy the day after the camp was over. That sadness had come right on top of him again, the childish smile gone, the eyes back to that same emptiness. Saying goodbye to him was extraordinarily difficult... I felt as if my heart was being ripped out of my chest. As I told him that I loved him, his lips began to quiver. At that moment it hit me that he wasn't used to hearing those words often. At 12 years old, he wasn't used to being told that he was loved. No child should ever have to grow up like that.

I don't know where to go from here, honestly. I've only been gone for a few days and I feel as if I might explode. My heart is still aching in my chest, the tears are still running down my face. My heart is so broken, and as much as it hurts, I want it to stay that way. When God breaks your heart for people, it is the beginning of understanding his love. Its hard, its painful, but its the only thing that is truly worth it in life.

Such a medicine is love.


Granddad said...

As a young father I loved my baby girls and always wanted to fix everything because that's what dads do. As a middle aged grandfather I realize that fixing isn't near as important as loving. It's with my grandchildren that I realized how important it is to just love children. I began to understand why kids who aren't loved will begin to do terrible things, how important it is to love them. I'm happy that my baby is learning this much younger than I did and sad for the pain she is suffering through it. But Jesus will wash away every tear!!!