China days and trusting God

So this is kind of how my day went.  And this is how I know God not only knows me better than I know myself, but also has some sense of humor.

7:30 am  Wake up, make coffee, put in some email work, and shove oatmeal in my mouth while I talk to my sister and my parents in Arizona on skype, listen to the plans for their trip to China, and begin to ache and miss something of home.

10:15 am  Meet with my tutor, intending to study the newspaper, but the conversation inevitably drifts to faith and life.  She tells me about how she is so self-reliant that others often assume she doesn’t need anyone (sound familiar?), and tells me this verse gave her to conviction and the courage to share her weaknesses with others:

On behalf of such a one I will not boast, but on my own behalf I will not boast, except of my own weaknesses.  –2 Corinthians 12:5

I remember being awe of her boldness and God’s work in her life, rather speechless, and feeling a bit far away from God myself.

Nanning juxtaposition.

2:00 pm  Meet with a friend from Hong Kong who is moving away for a few months.  We talk about disabled kids and she tells me about a group of families who are living in community and supporting one another- I can’t wait to meet them!  She compliments me on my Mandarin, and as I order us two cups of Vietnamese coffee, I think, I’m not so bad at this.

4:00 pm  I meet with a reporter to speak about my life as a foreign scholar in China, and I feel at a total loss for words.  I speak completely un-eloquently about our life here, it all comes out in flat landscapes, stereotypes, and childlike sentences.  I’m so embarassed and defeated.  I call up my husband and complain that after a year and a half here I’m a total failure.

Life along the Yong River.

5:30 pm  I jump in the shower with tears in my eyes, and wait for the bus for twenty minutes.  Finally, I take a rickshaw to go meet my friend in the height of heavy traffic.  The disabled woman driving chatters on with a thick bai hua accent about how excellent my Mandarin is, and though I’ve just experienced a complete lack of confidence, I find her joy genuine and contagious.  When I step out on the curb, I want to give her a hug.

6:30 pm  Because I’m emotionally exhausted, my poor friend gets to hear all my worries and fears and frustrations come out as we walk block after block to go visit a foster family.  She doesn’t give me false praise, though, she just listens patiently and encourages me, and before long we’re laughing together, and I’m wondering why I have such a love/hate relationship with this China lately.

7:30 pm  We head out to the local park with the foster family and as we sit there, the music blaring, go-karts wizzing and the girls hanging on the monkey bars, the foster mom talks about what it means for these kids to have a family.

9:30 pm  Once home, I grab my notebook and begin scribbling while shoving huge chopstick-fulls of liangpi into my mouth.  And I realize that in spite of myself, the verse my friend shared with me this morning led me through the day.

I realize that it’s in those moments where I’ve felt truly helpless, defeated, and weak, but I’ve admitted it to friends here that I’ve felt such a true sense of fellowship and understanding.  And I have a sinking feeling that it’s busy, exhausting days like this that I will cherish someday when I leave China.

And I think about how helpful the one-down position is as an anthropologist, and how important it is that we sinners get used to that identity, for it’s only when we realize our own weaknesses and admit them to others that we can be loved, and in turn love.

And I sigh, I head outside to the balcony to grab the clothes off the line and pack for yet another adventure tomorrow.  And this time, I resolve to trust God just a little bit more with this life, because it turns out God really knows what God’s doing.

Photos by Evan Schneider

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