Been To India: Life Changing?
Simply due to timing, schedules and the general things of life, this post is being written roughly 6 ½ weeks after a full week on the ground in India. As I sit in my leather reclining chair, a golf tournament is on the television. One son is watching European soccer on the basement television while relaxed on the couch. The other son is simultaneously watching videos on the tablet and playing a strategy game on the computer. My wife is laying down to fend off a headache, brought on by a combination of snowy weather outside, a 5AM wake-up call and six soccer games in two days. I’m contemplating the tasks I need to complete today, including installation of a new exterior storm door on the front entry (it’s approximately 30 degrees Fahrenheit on this early April afternoon) and some workbench organization in the basement, anticipating a house appraisal later this week in advance of a mortgage refinance. Also on my mind are numerous work related tasks and activities that must be completed in short order to support a quickly approaching out-of-town business trip.
This is just the short list that encapsulates a few brief days in what is routinely a hectic and full life. A life of schedules, commitments, activities and general busyness that is chosen; it is entered into willfully and intentionally. On the whole, it brings joy and satisfaction to each of us for a majority of its days. It is a life that seeks to be lived, not just survived or existed. A life that demands much but offers opportunities for so much more in return. While it does require an occasional tune-up or rebalance, it would be foolhardy to describe it as anything other than abundant and blessed. It is my life – it is a gift from God – and I give Him all the praise for it.
In contemplating my recent trip to India and what it means for my life, it occurred to me that a typical viewpoint of such a trip such is that it will be “life changing”. Many times, non-travelers will state “a trip like that is life changing”. And often, travelers return claiming “that trip was life changing”. In the past, I haven’t quite been able to relate to those statements – not that I don’t understand the concept – but more that I have never been able to see the applicability for me personally.
This trip did not change that position.
I wasn’t “wrecked”. I didn’t return with a newfound passion for all things global missions. I haven’t discovered a burning desire to forsake all things and plunge headlong into a thatch roof hut with a dirt floor. I don’t incessantly think about the trip, the people, the places, etc.
Please don’t misunderstand me – the trip was awesome! I want to go there again and again, as well as other places. I want to see what God has for me and what He will accomplish if I’m willing to surrender to Him and His will. I desire to be conformed to His image, to be salt for the world, to shine His light, to proclaim His name both literally with my mouth and figuratively with my life.
But one week in India did not change my life because God has already been changing my life for years now. He’s been molding me, breaking me, refining me in ways that I couldn’t have predicted or understood. He is leading me further and further into a closer relationship with Him. Is that hard sometimes? I can’t use enough words to communicate an emphatic “YES!” it’s hard, beyond a shadow of a doubt. There are days when I not only don’t like it, but I almost resent it. It has been painful and I know for certainty that He’s not finished. I have to constantly pray for strength and endurance through Him and in Him to make it to the next day. But that fact remains that my life was changed when He got ahold of me like I’d never known before.
I didn’t go to India to have my life changed. I went to India because my life has been changed.
He has worked through many people to affect that change. Pastors and close friends have played fundamental roles in the progression and continue to do so. Opportunities to disciple, lead, mentor and support have stretched me beyond my comfort zone, forcing me to lean on Him for guidance and wisdom. He has provided clear evidence for service where I can use the gifts and abilities given by Him, as well as strong indicators of areas that are not necessarily my calling (in and of itself, this can be life changing, as it can prove painful when it’s contrary to my own desires). My wife has been used profoundly by God to affect change in my life. While He has been working on both of us, often in different ways and through different means, He prompts her to motivate me. I’m convinced that our evolving relationship is being spurred by Him, both for ourselves and each other – in other words, He’s working on things in her as an individual, sometimes for her exclusively while other times to spur her to incite change in me, and vice versa.
That’s how “life changing” should look: as God changes your life, the lives of those around you should also be impacted. Anything God does in your life is intended to accomplish two things: draw you into a closer relationship with Him and provide an opportunity for you to show Him to others – both of which should be life changing.
I constantly praise God for the blessings in my life. Some are material – I strive to be a good steward, knowing full well that everything comes from Him. Others are relational – He is trusting with much and I fully comprehend that the expectation is even more. And I praise Him for a life that allows will and decision. There exists an almost endless supply of freedoms and opportunities in my everyday life. In India, I interacted with so many who simply did not have such things. Their lives were radically different and so much more difficult. I can state with absolute certainty that most would confess that they would love to live my life, even for a short period, with its health, family, home, freedom, comfort, and so much more. I’d be a flat-out liar if I said I would love to trade places with them! And the reality is this: there’s not much that I can do to affect their lives in terms of those aspects. I’m not changing governments, cultures, attitudes, countries, backgrounds or upbringings.
But the one thing that I can do is this: I can keep surrendering to God as He changes my life, and follow His lead for ways to change the eternal lives of others.
At the end of days, whether my roof is shingles or palm branches, it doesn’t matter. If I sleep in a bed or on the dirt, it doesn’t matter. If I eat my rice with a fork or my fingers, it doesn’t matter. I can change every single physical aspect of my life or I can strive to change every single physical aspect of other’s lives – it doesn’t matter. Because this temporary life doesn’t matter. It’s a vapor and it is perishing.
God has changed my life for eternity. And if He wills, I want to be used by Him to do the same in the lives of many others. That’s what matters.