Aquarium Atlantis

by Sandra

The time has come.  The day that I really wish would never have arrived.  But it’s time — time to let God come and heal those deepest and most picked at wounds.  He wants to draw me out, drop my defenses, let me live.

Let me explain.  This weekend I’ve spent in preparation to go overseas to aid church workers in a foreign land. I’m not sure I’m suppose to say where I’m going yet, but it’s a country where Christians are oppressed and persecuted openly for their faith — something that American Christians know so little about.

As we were praying last night, a thought came over me.  I spend a great deal of my daily energy on not being noticed, to fly under the radar.  I’m scared to death about a foreign missions trip, because surely it will bring two things — I am garunteed to make a fool of myself because of cross-cultural differences; and I will need to reach out and interact with people I don’t know.  But I’m naturally disinclined to start unneccessary conversations with strangers — it makes me uncomfortable.

I know where this comes from.  I’ve spent much of my life with my defenses up.  Call it a natural by-product of growing up overweight, where even walking into the school library presented an opportunity for insults to be thrown and hopefully dodged.  Even if the pounds are gone, the walls are still there, like the ruins of some ancient city, like a coral reef abandoned.  Yet I’m like that lone fish that didn’t bother to move to the vibrant living colony a few schoals down.

But no more.  For a long time, I’ve sensed that God wanted me allow him to demolish those walls, but I haven’t engaged him in that conversation, ’cause I knew the nitty-gritties would fling me far outside my comfort zone.  This was up until last night, when I knew — I knew — that God was going to use this overseas trip to bring in the wrecking ball.  It’s a bit like getting teeth pulled, this sensation.  The anticipation of the pain is actually much greater than the pain itself, and when it’s all over I know that I’ll be so much better — healed.  However that thought doesn’t diminish the dauntingness of the task at hand.

This feeling was confirmed today as my team members and I went out onto the streets of Thai Town to practice the experience of a cross-cultural exchange.  Each person was assigned a task as we went, and naturally, I was named group photographer.  My camera worked for a few blocks as we strolled along Hollywood Boulevard, yet as we stood in front of the neighborhood marketplace, underneath a Buddhist shrine that was draped in sacraficial lais, food and drink laid out with straws and utensils to help quench the appetites of the gods — my camera stopped working.

At first I thought it was merely a battery problem.  Young Mi and I sauntered into the market and bought fresh batteries.  I dropped them into their slots and still my camera misbehaved.  I said to Matt, “my camera’s still not working,” and his response was “we should go pray for it.”

So we did, the five of us, standing in the covered, near empty parking lot, praying for the camera, the neighborhood, for the unclean spirits to leave.  Walking back into the sunlight, the camera worked for several shots until again it died.  Again I quietly prayed, walking past the fake azure of a cheap hotel pool.  Nothing — this camera was screwed.

But this time I heard God tell me to put the camera down — and start interacting with the men and women around me.  Not that there’s anything wrong with taking a picture, and that does help me see the world in a unique way, but also a lot of the time I use the camera to hide behind.  I use it as an excuse not to engage in the culture around me.  It’s one of my walls.

I obeyed, putting the camera back in its bag and zipping it up.  Still, I was hesistant to smile at the strangers around me, to ask questions and to offer a listening ear.  It was still a struggle, doing so, but it is a step, a stretch.  I’m still petrified at what’s to come, comforted only at the truth that God wants only to help me and not harm me, and in know that, I can rest in his care.