India. I have been home for more than a week now, and finally I’m forcing myself to write. When I have returned from trips to India in the past, I have spent days and nights weeping over the things I have seen there. I have been so grateful for a husband who has been broken by India himself and does not require explanation, but simply holds me and cries with me—the images burned into both of our minds.
But this time, I have shed few tears. I’ve felt exhausted. I’m sure jet lag was part of it. I woke up at three and four a.m. for days, but instead of meditating on India, I escaped into a 600-page novel. During the days, in the fog, I watched mind-numbing TV shows and caught up on the many emails that had filled my inbox while I was “seeing the world.” Two snow days kept the kids home from school, and we watched movies all day. You’d have thought it was Christmas break.
My suitcase sat in the bathroom floor creating a nighttime hazard, still packed with the dirty clothes, the new outfits I bought for myself and the ziplock bag slimed by some toiletry bottle that exploded greasy white glops all over the inside of the bag. Until today.
India destroys me. I come home angry. I come home theologically cynical, as I see we Americans, not only living in the comfortable assurance of our eternal salvation, but the comfortable satisfaction that God loves us and has a wonderful plan for our life that includes enjoying the blessing of toasty warm, tastefully decorated castles that He has provided for us, because we believe in Him.
My daughter, Jessi, was on this trip with me. Every day as we left our hotel in Kolkata, we walked past whole families whose home was the sidewalk. Thin blankets covered the bodies of even thinner mothers and their children, stretched out on cardboard that served as a bit of insulation from the cold cement. As we returned later in the day, they slaved over hot coal fires, cooking meals for crowds of men who sat at makeshift tables on the same piece of sidewalk that was bed just a few hours before.
We rode the train past mountains of garbage, the waste of millions that for the “least of these” is home. We visited Sonagachi, the Red Light District of Kolkata, where over 10,000 women live as prostitutes—many of them forced into brothels as eight, nine, ten year old little girls. We spent a day volunteering at Mother Teresa’s Missionaries of Charity—Jessi in a home for mentally and physically disabled children, abandoned by their families because of their deformities. Me in the Home for the Dying and Destitute.
Okay . . . there are the tears.
I remember this feeling . . . My little sister lost a baby to SIDS eight years ago. John and I were with her and her family for weeks after the initial shock and devastation. Funeral over. Too much time on our hands. Whole days we sat and did nothing. We played stupid card games. We watched dumb sitcoms. Then someone would remember and begin to cry—then we’d all begin to cry.
This is grief.
The numbness, the anger, the cynicism, the tears.
But what am I grieving?
Perhaps it is the loss of what should be. India, as it is, is not what God had in mind.
“For we know that the whole creation groans and labors with birth pangs together until now. Not only that, but we also who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves.”
Babies should not be sleeping on sidewalks. Girls should not be raped in brothels. Mothers should not be picking through the trash. Homeless, sick people should not be dying on the streets unloved and unattended. This is not the way things should be. And so we grieve. . .