Since graduating from college over three years ago, I have avoided spending long-stints stateside because I thought it would be a death sentence: an order for complacency. Too ordinary for someone who wanted extraordinary. For someone who compared her life to every other world traveler she knows, I thought living stateside was signing my life over to The Man—resigning myself to becoming routine-oriented and faithless.
As I laid in bed today, the sun streaming into my room a little before 6 am, I realized how happy I am here… which was immediately followed up by a momentary panic: crap—did I get too comfortable? Am I now a shop-til-you-drop, have to have a Starbucks Christmas cup once a week American? Are people going to tell me that I’ve gotten too at home in the ease of America? Am I only a consumer of an easy life? Am I even doing anything that matters?
My thoughts drifted back to Bolivia eight months ago: being stuffed between a huge local and Joshua in a combi-van during a rainstorm… after our bus had broken down in a mountain at the border crossing… after 30 hours on said dysfunctional bus. I remember shivering in the station late that night, unable to buy SIM cards for our POS phones, unable to get internet to look up a phone number, unable to find the teams in the area, and I remember being totally happy. I remember freezing in El Alto—the second highest city in the world—while we all drank altitude-sickness tea and huddled in sleeping bags for warmth: and I remember being happy then too. (Me: cold and happy–can it really be true?) I remember sanding a door in a room where ten-year-old boys are detoxed from paint thinner and glue–my hands numb from the Bolivian cold, weeping and gagging over the permanent stench of urine… and still being happy.
Amazing Grace! How sweet the sound.
I rolled over to read my morning texts from London-Katrina: “Sigh, praise Jesus. And… was he receptive? I was just walking to the train, praying that I would sit by the right person to share God’s love with. Transport is always a special time for me.”
Bleary-eyed and back in my present reality, I try to recall what I said to receive such a though-provoking and intentional response. After taking my daily thyroid dose and rereading our conversation about our Thursdays, I propped my head on my chiropractic wedge to begin my morning routine of laying flipped upside down for twenty-minutes of wandering thoughts.
I recounted to her how I went in to see Chris for my weekly most-painful-massage/ 90-minute stretching–and how an amazing conversation had ensued. Now truth be told, I used to have a crush on Chris three months ago when we first met. Going to see him was one of the week’s highlights, in spite of the pain he caused. But with each week that has passed, surface sports conversations have moved to deeper waters. It has become glaringly clear that we both understand things that people don’t talk about: he calls it energy and aura. I call it discernment. He believes in spiritual healing as much as I do—but the basis of our belief is as far as the east is from the west. He thinks he was a shaman in Nepal in another life. I think He’s colliding with the Living God without even knowing it. With each week of his coaxing and thrashing my spine back into place, our conversations have continued to become more thought provoking, more revealing that every person—Christian and not—has eternity written on their hearts.
Yesterday, in the midst of pulling my hip out of its socket, he thoughtfully said, “you know I read that they’re starting to prove ‘Love’ is a real thing. As in tangible. Measurable. Like it’s real.”
“Well of course it is. It’s more real than anything else.”
He went back to violently pulling my leg over my head, “You know, Tiff, I know a lot of people who have really bad attitudes. And whose lives suck simply because they want their lives to suck. They suck to hang out with because they suck life out of people. But I love going in a room that has sucky energy and knowing that I can change that.” I laughed–I know exactly what you mean: changing an atmosphere.
A few minutes go by. I slowly and carefully say, “Dude, I want to be the type of person that goes and visits a man in prison who may have done terrible things to my family. The kind of woman who can sit with someone who has molested children and say ‘you’re forgiven’. Someone whose love is unconditional.”
“Well, that’s a bold thing to say, but how can you know that? You’re not a parent yet. You don’t know how much that could hurt.”
“Maybe not. But I think it’s a choice I can make now. Just like attitude is. I can still make choices to say that’s the kind of person I want to be, and will be. I decide who I forgive, no matter the cost to my own heart.”
He sat there pensively, flipping my wrist back as far as it would go, “What do you call that, that kind of love you talked about, what you just described?”
“Grace. It’s called Grace.”
“There’s a word for it? Huh. I think our world could use more of that.”
Grace will lead me home
As I began to unfurl my neck from its fixed position, I thought about today’s routine: write this blog instead of trying to tell Katrina in a text, drive eighty mile roundtrip to see my chiropractor for the third time this week, have the tires on my car changed, go to my favorite yoga classes, buy a wedding shower gift, respond to a few facebook messages from NSquad, take a long sunset walk at low tide with Mommy. A completely American and normal day, and I am so happy to live it.
Today, I finally understand: I am happy because the love I have for the Lord is real. I realize my happiness in the third world is not dependent on living a “legit story”, and my happiness in my ocean-view condo with my weekly not-massages and chiropractic care has nothing to do with ease. I am happy because my love for the Lord, for his goodness and his grace and his holiness, doesn’t change because of where I am or what I am doing or who I am with. It just is.
We’ve no less days to sing God’s grace than when we first begun.