Monday, May 14, 2012

How a Car Seat Made Me See My Green Grass


Have you ever found yourself longing for something that you actually used to...uh, complain about?  I've seen this dynamic play out especially among those of us who have lived in two different countries.  We leave America and then whine about everything we miss from home.  We paint this glorious picture in our minds about how perfect everything is in the States.  When (not if) things go awry in our strange new foreign home, we swear such craziness never occurs back in the land of the free and the home of the brave. 

Then we fly back to the fruited plains of the US and for awhile we bask in the glow of the purple mountain's majesty.  But it doesn't take before we're pining away for the other side of the ocean, making a long mental (or facebook) list of all the things about America that drives us crazy.  I've often shook my head when I see friends do this, chuckling about how in the human mind, the grass is always greener...


Source: thegogreenblog.com via Pinterest

Then I go and do it myself

In China, there wasn't a church we could be a part of.  So instead, on Sunday evenings, we'd gather with our team of 10 in our apartments and "do church."  And we'd long for the big community, the big worship, and all the trimmings of big church.  Then we found ourselves back in the US at a big church.  And for the first couple months we reveled in it.  I couldn't make it through a Sunday without tears coarsing down my cheeks as I soaked in the glory of musical worship with hundreds of others.  Everything about our new church was grand and exciting.

Then after a while I found my heart hungry for the deep knowing and being known that we had...back in China.  Back where our little "church" of ten lived life together.  We were each other's neighbors, colleagues, and family.  We did everything together.  We were each other's schedules.  I forget the times that it made me crazy, and instead I get all nostalgic about the richness of that community.  And I compare it to the busyness we and our new community have here.  Where do we fit each other in?

So I bemoaned that for a while.  Then I found myself reading in Numbers about the Israelites complaining to Moses about how they didn't have any meat to eat, how they were better off in Egypt.  When I've read that before, I've thought, "What a bunch of whiners!"  A little harder to say that when the story is a mirror forcing you to reckon with your own selfish discontent.

Isn't that how the human brain so often works?  Somehow all the frustrating dailies of life in the past fade away and the shiny warm memories glow brighter.  I think it's a good thing.  Except when it makes you discontent with the present.  But I guess that's a choice.

Sometimes God allows us to wallow in our wrong choices until we've buried ourselves to rock bottom.  Then we begin the slow ascent of daily choosing the good.  But other times, God chooses to bless our undeserving whiny little socks off, just because.  Both ways are a reality check.  This time, mercifully, God gave me the latter, and it came in the form of a car seat. 

We were sitting with our small group on a Sunday evening, when they said to us, "We have something for you."  Then a huge box appears with a brand new baby car seat.  "Our Sunday school class wanted to do something for you, so we all went in and got you a car seat," they grinned. 

I start fanning myself from the heat of the emotions that burn the back of my eyes.  For us?  Just because?  Here I've been longing for the community we used to have, and then God says, "Don't you see?  I've placed you in a community.  It's new and different and good and beautiful.  While you've been whining, they've been loving you."

The car seat just happens to be green, the green of the grass that is all around me, here and now. 

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