Six months ago, in my daydreams, I was consumed by Bolivia. When I pictured myself here, I naturally didn't give much thought to how my life and relationships in The States might continue on. My imagination remade me in to a Bolivian and I shrugged off all of America besides "I'll miss you" and "how do I pay my loans off?" I left with just a backpack and thus didn't expect to be carrying so much with me. I think sometimes it's fashionable to be "psh! like, so over America" and it's easy to over-romanticize being submerged in a new country. I didn't realize how close I would still be to home. More importantly, I didn't expect to be so grateful for it.
Christ teaches us that we must be prepared to sacrifice our entire lives out of love for Him. This includes our belongings, our security, our homes, and, most challenging for the majority of us, our relationships. Not all of us are asked to leave it all behind, but our loves should be ordered in such away that we could if called to. When I seriously began to consider what this meant for me in my own life, I did not anticipate how very present those relationships would be to me here. Being led in to mission may mean that you leave your relationships behind you at "home," but they never disappear. The people that I love are no longer down the hall or across the street or even "just a phone call away." I volunteered to slip away from a lot of people, ocluded by geography or time or a dramatic separation of experiences and life paths that has consequences I cannot anticipate. But my friends and family are here in a way I never expected. Paradoxically, I would not be here if I couldn't leave them, but I also couldn't be here if I didn't feel like every one of them was with me somehow.
It is not vain or prideful to say I have been loved deeply and abundantly in my life. It is a testament to the generosity and care of God, manifested through the actions of the people around me. This love shapes us. This is the only way we learn to love and serve others and it starts from the very beginning of our lives. Our parents and siblings, hopefully, take us home, smother us in hugs and kisses and just enough time-outs and scoldings to teach us right from wrong. We learn we are loved, that we have the potential and the knowledge to make good decisions we can take pride in, and that there is always a safe place for us to come back to.
Then we start school. Our ""profes" teach us to raise our hands, to take turns, and that math isn't so bad after all. We learn to respect and listen to others and the impact we have on someone simply by believing in them.
Then we take an interest in the world. We join churches, we travel, we take a look at what makes us mad or joyful in the world. We learn to discern, to fight injustice because all people have value, and to listen carefully to God's call in our lives.
It carries on like this with every person we meet. My roommate is at my side day after day, through good and bad, and I learn from her how to be present. My leadership team looks with a genuine delight at every person and I learn the power of acceptance. My family sends me a care package and I learn to be generous and thoughtful. My profesor lets me sit in her office for hours babbling about how directionless I am and I leave understanding so much more about listening and the role of love in our vocation. I burst in the door hysterical about some new, probably unimportant bit of drama and my friend sighs and breathes out the explicatives I was afraid to say and I learn the beauty of empathy.
I wish I could reflect each of these qualities at once, but I think that only Christ could pull that off. But learning from each of them brings me a step closer to understanding His perfect love. Jesus tells his disciples "love one another as I have loved you." This love is channeled through the people put in our lives who teach us by their example how to love others and give us the strength, tools, and security to do so.
When I left I feared I was abandoning my friends and family. I see now that I was actually sent forth by them. It may be that the only thing the two concepts hold in common is the distance. I pray every day that my actions can be a testament to the love I have been shown in my life. I am encouraged and emboldened by every email or letter that reminds me that I am always accompanied by the prayers and thoughts of someone far away. My experience here is dependent upon God's love, which is and has been revealed to me through all of you. I hope you can all come to see the presence of God's love in your life without having to move out of the country. Now go hug someone and tell them how they have taught you to love better. As for you and me, this will have to do. I love you all! Thanks for loving me!