Sometimes following Christ’s call on your heart can be quite uncomfortable.
It can lead you into situations and to faraway places where you’d never have thought to go on your own; situations where your heart is stretched, bruised and broken, only to be patched back together and filled up again, stronger and better than it was before.
But I’ve found stronger and better doesn’t necessarily mean free of pain.
For me, Christ’s call recently has taken the form of two trips: one to Nicaragua and one to Guatemala. There’s a pain that lingers beyond those incredible experiences. There’s a sorrow and a joy, a devastation and a hope, and an emptiness left by the people you grew to love during the visit.
And there’s a strangeness in coming back to live in my world after visiting theirs.
The stark differences between the two worlds, the plenty and the poverty were on my mind as I spent the past weekend watching my son compete at Irish dance.
It’s what he loves, and in that world, he has found so much happiness from classes, competitions and performances. In three years, he’s had lessons in hard work, persistence, setting goals and winning and losing gracefully. He’s learned new skills, including stage presence and focus. And he’s made a wonderful circle of like-minded friends who have become family, who push him to dance better, and who support him always.
It warms my heart to see my boy in this world that he loves.
And yet, my mind kept moving towards next weekend, when I will return to Nicaragua, the poorest country in Central America, and the second-poorest in the Western Hemisphere, just behind Haiti.
Nicaragua is a country where, according to the CIA World Factbook, 21 percent of children leave school in the first grade, and where the average education level is only 5.6 years, dropping to 3.6 years in rural areas.
It was surreal to sit in the ballroom of a resort hotel, knowing I’d soon be unable to brush my teeth with sink water, using bottled water instead; to know that I’d be visiting a country where 75 percent of the population lives on less than $2 a day, while watching dancers compete in dresses that cost more than the average Nicaraguans’ annual income.
It was surreal and uncomfortable, but something I wouldn’t miss, anymore than I would miss the opportunity to see my sponsored children again next week. I’ll see them once again in their worlds, and the reality will be hard, but the smiles and hugs will be beautiful.
And with any luck, my heart will be stretched, bruised and broken, only to be patched back together and filled up again, stronger and better than it was before.