" . . . sometimes the happiest ending isn't the one you keep longing for, but something you absolutely cannot see from where you are." - Shauna Niequist
I have thought long and hard over these words in the time since I've returned from India. I have reflected on who I was before I left and who I am now that I'm back. I have searched deeply for answers to the questions of "what parts of the before Steph do you want to hold on to? Which parts of her do you want to shed like dry skin?" I have found that the answers lie more within what defines a happy ending for me now versus what helped to shape it then.
I have been quite candid in the past about my desire for love. I am a thoroughly relational person, a monogamous person, a person who really loves love. It has caused deep pain, wide division, and many more lessons than I would prefer to admit.
In my pursuit of a relationship I began to find my comfort, my peace, in people -- my family members, my girlfriends, men who were undeserving of my time -- I believe I have put so much pressure on these people -- I have placed expectations on them that they were never designed to withstand.
I prayed for the wreckage of my beating heart in India. It manifested in ways I didn't, I couldn't, foresee.
When you travel to a third world country there are things you should likely expect, but that my first world brain did not calculate into the equation: internet access is spotty and difficult and unreliable on its best day; people are going to stare at you, let their eyes linger over you, because you are drastically paler than even the palest native; your body is going to be livid with you for dragging it through several time zones and not sleeping adequately when you were given the time to; caffeine will only slightly lessen grogginess and headaches because, ya know, the time zone thing; it will not be an easy transition - everything will feel wrong and off and foreign because IT IS.
I prayed for the wreckage of my beating heart in India. It manifested in not being able to reach "my people" whenever I needed them. It showed up in a hotel room at precisely 2 AM and allowed room for me to willingly and whole heartedly cry out to Jesus in a way the comforts of America didn't allow.
I was always less likely to run to Jesus when I could call mom or Stephen or one, or all, of my remarkable girlfriends. If I could physically hear a response or rest on a shoulder then crying out to the One who had the power to overtake it could become an afterthought.
Wreckage came in when running to God was my only option.
Before I left for India my brain was focused on battling depression. My heart wanted desperately to be pursued by someone and my brain wanted desperately to not want it all so desperately. My happiest ending was in line with what the people around me have, and are, experiencing -- good jobs, falling in love, happy marriages. It was safe to say that my happiest ending certainly involved love -- I just assumed I knew the sort of love that needed to be written in to my story in order to obtain my 'happiest ending.'
India found me seeing and feeling God closer than I had ever experienced Him in America. He was in the bright colors the women decorated their bodies with. He was laced in to the laughter of young girls giggling at the way I waved goodbye to them. He was in the hopscotch game drawn in dirt with a stick. He was within the smile of a boy that held my hand tight and now has a piece of my heart forever. He was, He is, everywhere. I don't know why I had to travel through time zones and try new and spicy foods and feel so removed from everything I know and love before I could truly know and love Him in such a new way, but I am so glad for it.
I landed in India crying; I swore I had made a mistake; all I wanted was home and familiarity.
I left India sobbing. I didn't want to leave those kids, that little boy; I wanted more time; I couldn't believe things were finally becoming familiar.
I journaled much of the plane rides back -- recalling conversations with the children I met, trying to memorize their smiles and laughter and the way they said "sister" in their sweet accents. I didn't want to forget anything - I didn't want to lose anything that I had gained while I was there.
One of my last pages of reflection on India I wrote, "Lord God, if bringing a relationship in to my life is going to stop me from returning to India next year, I don't want you to bring a relationship in to my life."
I go back to my journal and read that line almost every day -- mostly because I still can't quite believe the transformation that has occurred in my heart.
I think about that quote, as I attempt to end this post . . . You can rest assured that when I climbed aboard that plane to Hyderabad, I was completely and utterly blind to the happy ending He was writing for me. But it was there and He was penning it. They were both waiting for me to arrive.