Saturday, April 21, 2012


I was caught off guard recently when three different friends all used the same word in describing my life here in China.  They all said that I had made sacrifices to be here.  At the time of each conversation, I didn't quite know how to respond adequately or appropriately -- I think I express myself much better in writing than I do verbally.

I adamantly do not view life here as sacrifice.  Is there hardship?  Sometimes, but it isn't privation of any sort.  Emotionally I have gone through quite a bit these past nine months, and yes, all of those things are difficult to handle alone and so far from the sources.  I struggled tremendously with guilt during the worst part of Mom's illness, wondering how I could stay here while she was left without a daughter to care for her -- but at the same time, I was following the clearly marked path that I saw God leading me down, and also honoring my mother's wishes; there just was no other course to take.  I've struggled recently with some of the other bad news coming in from stateside, coupled with some issues here.  It's hardship, it's baggage, it's weight; in my crasser moments I refer to it succinctly as "crap."  Sometimes things make me cry.  Recently, things made me angry (a rare occurrence, so I didn't quite know how to handle it).  But I don't think it warrants the title "sacrifice".

To me, sacrifice is so much bigger and deeper.  It involves tremendous loss.  I've lost things, yes, and the losses of some things do hurt (like Eowyn, St. Timothy's, the close involvement with Lantern Hollow Press, Inklings III, freedom in some of my decisions).  But I haven't had to give up anything essential.  And I feel like I have gained so much that to call coming here sacrifice is almost an insult to God.  I've been given so much, even when I'm spending a few weeks weighed down with situations beyond my control.  I know that my previous two posts lacked my usual joy, but even in the dark cloud I've been inside lately, I've still known that I am blessed to be here.  It's a gift, not a sacrifice.  I know that the people who have called it that have meant well, but I really stiffen at having such a significant word applied incorrectly -- it just seems like a slight to the people who really do make sacrifices.

Jesus's work on the cross was sacrifice.  God sending Him was sacrifice.  David Brainerd working himself to death at age 29 was sacrifice.  Taking a bullet meant for someone else or giving away your last dollar to feed someone else or living in a leper colony in order to care for them -- these things are sacrifice.  I don't think that sacrifice always needs to involve death necessarily, but it does need to be pretty earth-shattering, in light of precedent.  Moving to China to teach my favorite subject to extraordinary students and show love to the most gracious and loving people I've ever met -- that's just not sacrifice.  Having a few tough blows isn't enough to make it that either.  It makes me really uncomfortable to have that word applied to my situation.  I know that most people stateside have a very different view of China; please, please let this post convince you that life in China is not a sacrifice.

To the three dear people who have used that word with me recently -- please don't feel censured; I understand what you meant even if I stumbled about in a verbal confusion when you first said it.  But my life here is not sacrifice.  I may have spent 26 years not wanting to ever set foot NEAR China, but it only took a few months to change that.  I am exactly where I want to be.  I've been given the rare gift of having my dream come true, even though I never knew it was my dream.  I am honestly very happy, even when I'm sad.

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"Passage—immediate passage! the blood burns in my veins! Away, O soul! hoist instantly the anchor!
Cut the hawsers—haul out—shake out every sail!
Have we not stood here like trees in the ground long enough?
Have we not grovell’d here long enough, eating and drinking like mere brutes?
Have we not darken’d and dazed ourselves with books long enough?

Sail forth! steer for the deep waters only!
Reckless, O soul, exploring, I with thee, and thou with me;
For we are bound where mariner has not yet dared to go, And we will risk the ship, ourselves and all.

O my brave soul!
O farther, farther sail!
O daring joy, but safe! Are they not all the seas of God?
O farther, farther, farther sail!"

~Walt Whitman, "Passage to India"