13 September 2010

On Returning

“I went to Vietnam because I had to go. It may have been a messy and botched experience but that doesn’t mean that I shouldn’t have gone. Sometimes life is messy and botched. We do our best. We don’t always know the right move.” (Pretty much copied from Elizabeth Gilbert’s Committed, except in her case she’s talking about her time in Cambodia).

A year ago, when my time in Vietnam was just beginning, I felt very much that I had to be here. It wasn’t something I could explain or articulate but more of a feeling and desire that took over my conscious thoughts and subconscious dreams. As my time wore on, I began to feel that it was, indeed, a botched and messy experience but one from which I couldn’t extract myself. So I stayed through the messiness and in the end, I would say I made the right move. However, significant questions arose this summer as I searched for the right next move. Was the natural inclination to return for a second term the right choice, or the easy one? I sought, and found, ways to justify a return. I weighed the pros and cons. I talked to friends and confidants. I wrestled with God. I explored options outside of returning. After all this discernment, I again thought that Vietnam was where God wanted me. And then, as often is the case once I’ve made a significant (and largely permanent) decision, I found a reason that made me want to change my mind and stay at home. On a chance (or as Mrs. Bantly would say, Providential) search for Thai basil to make Pho for my support and sending team, I met Matthew. What started as the gracious extension of credit when I realized I’d forgotten cash to pay for said basil quickly developed into a new and exciting relationship. Never before had my decision to return to Vietnam seemed like such a sacrifice.

I’ve been back in Vietnam less than a week, but it was in the first few minutes of my return that I fought the strong urge to walk back into the airport and buy a ticket on the first US bound plane. Granted, I was exhausted from almost 40 hours of travel, including three hours on the runway in Hong Kong in the midst of a huge thunderstorm, but at 5:30 in the morning all was miserable and all I wanted was to go home. Sitting at the airport, with a dead laptop and cell phone, helplessness overwhelmed me as I looked for a way to contact the people who were supposed to meet me there 7 hours earlier. Through further Providence, an English speaking cab driver came to my aid and eventually I made it to where I needed to be and promptly fell asleep for the next 10 hours. Unfortunately, this made me miss my ride to Can Tho, and so I’ve been trying to figure out a way to the university for the past 5 days or so. This is far from a stellar beginning and a less than resounding vote of confidence in my decision to return. Needless to say, these first days have been rough. It’s hot, I’m still jet-lagged, and my heart is torn between here and home.

I have to believe that this sacrifice will bring blessings that I cannot yet foresee. I know that I tend to be rather shortsighted, and my view of the future is always cloudy. These struggles will certainly serve some greater purpose, right? Until I see some good coming from this choice, I’m going to have to simply figure out how to live with the messiness of following what I still believe to be the call of God on my life, at this moment, faithfully, though often clumsily. That I might find grace and peace along this journey is all that I can pray for.

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