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June 21, 2013

gods and ends

My housemate's gods arrived last month. Not on a chariot or a white horse, but in a large brown cardboard box sealed with plastic wrap. Delivered by bumbling boys in polyester pants. The gods were in my housemate's shipment, which was in storage for six months before it finally was delivered to our doorstep.

The gods' house is a small wooden cabinet that got harmed in transit. In other countries it might pass for a house-shaped knick-knack cabinet. But here, it's a temple. My housemate recruited our cleaning lady's help to take the temple to the repair shop, but like many things here, there's no big hurry. Someday the house will be ready for its inhabitants.

I don't hear a peep out of the gods. So far, it would appear that these gods cannot hear, see, grasp, or speak. They couldn't give directions to the shippers. They couldn't hurry up their journey. They waited six months in a box, at the mercy of a transport company. Now they wait for their house to return. But all this to say, they're here.

It was a last-minute evening excursion. My housemate was driving. I was giving her directions as I tracked our position on my phone.

"Left here."
"Are you sure?"
"Yes, I'm sure. Don't you trust Google?"

Good old Google took us through a rougher area of the city, which made her nervous. She peered through the windshield, "Are you sure we're in the right place?"

I had to calm her briefly, but suddenly, I was fascinated, staring at what I saw on the sides of the road: gods made of plaster. Enormous ones. Small ones. Broken ones. Half-made ones. And milling about everywhere, going about their evening routines from their shacks along the street, were the commoners.

She was still nervous.
She: "Hey, are you completely sure this is where we should be? I don't like this area."
Me: "Wow, this is so interesting, these must be the people who make the gods."
She: "Yes, I know that as a foreigner you would find this interesting, but it could be dangerous driving through areas like this. Can we get out of here?"

Soon enough we were back to "civilization," to our supper in a fun cafe with air conditioning, pizza and Western music. But those memories of our drive stuck with me: the hot, dusty evening, the locals' shacks, and everywhere: idols, idols, idols. The elaborate gods and their simple creators.

While I was in high school (on a different continent, in a different hemisphere) there was a little old lady who lived in a house adjacent to ours. When my dad would climb his ladder to take papaya down from our tree in the backyard, she would greet him from her side of the wall. This tiny lady was raised by a father who was a god-maker. She could never believe that those gods could help her. After all, she saw her father carve them. And, he was just a man.

If you had asked me one or two years ago what I wanted to do with my life, I would have told you that I wanted to live intentionally internationally. To love and befriend and work overseas.

It was a journey, but last year I got the job, the plane ticket, the visa (OK, well, visa is pending again) I am. 

But if you asked me last month what I wanted to do with my life, I might have sounded more confused. I was feeling only 10% motivated to learn the local language. We were possibly only two-thirds of the way through the hottest season, but I'd already had enough of cooking in a boiling hot kitchen. The honeymoon I had with my new life here was over, and the realities (both good and bad) of life here stared me in the face. 

I came to Asia with a simple idea. I thought: I'll just go to Asia, work and love people. But I've realized that when I miss my friends, when my heels are dry and cracking, when my niece is adorable but also on the other side of the world, when I have diarrhea again, when I watch someone mistreat their servant for the fourteenth time, when workload becomes heavy and I'm love ends. My patience ends. My kindness ends. I end.

But it's not The end. Because someone entered Asia with me. Snuck in on my visa, if you will. He lives in me, so there was no moment that He was not with me. He didn't get lost in my luggage or stored in a spare room. His ears hear me. His eyes see me. His hand holds me. Most of all, He speaks to me. And He's so glad I've found my end. Because now He can begin.

 "The love of God is not createdit is his nature. It is impossible to exhaust God's love and it is impossible to exhaust my love as it flows from the Spirit of God within me."  
Oswald Chambers

"For this God is our God for ever and ever;
    he will be our guide even to the end." 
—The Sons of Korah

Speak, for your servant hears.” 

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