*Today is Day 3 of my “Dear Gratitude” project. I’m not a guest, but I’m serving as today’s writer :). Enjoy.*
I met my husband a few years ago at a birthday party which I’d halfheartedly decided to attend. My husband walked into the restaurant casually, the sun streaming in around his silhouette, emphasizing his stature and strength. I sat across the room, sipping a cocktail. When I saw his face, I immediately felt simultaneous surges of excitement and peace. Everything good was in this man. I knew he was for me.
I felt that way about you when I met you for the first time. The moment the Air China plane landed in Yantai, I was taken. I’d never met you before, but I instantly felt connected to you; I fell in love at first sight. Your mountains took my breath away. Your farmers, with only the tips of their conical straw hats visible as they bent over in the fields, brought tears to my eyes as our exchange group drove from the airport to Yantai University. And then I met your Yellow Sea. The lyrics of a contemporary praise and worship song, “Shout to the Lord,” resonated in my mind as I gazed across the water, imagining the waves applauding and cheering with me.
My heart was yours.
And that was before I’d even met your people. Students, who’d selected their own American names like Diana and Charlie and Madrigal and Brandon and Sabrina and Malina and Sally, quickly became more than numbers. They accepted and welcomed and embraced me. Their kindness transformed the 1.35 billion citizens from statistics to souls. When some of your female students asked me to sing the Joan Baez song, “Blowin’ in the Wind,” I could barely breathe. Sitting in a cramped, clean concrete dorm room, surrounded by eight beautiful residents eager to hear my voice sing the words their hearts had desperately pondered, I eked through the song, my heavy tears smearing the pencil marks on the student’s journal I held in my lap.
“How many years can some people exist before they’re allowed to be free?”
My heart asked the same question. I felt stifling sadness each time I held your orphans in my arms. I wondered why Communism continued to strangle your people, but all the rationale in the world wouldn’t pry its grip from your throat. I didn’t understand why I possessed all the rights in the world while your people silently suffered, keeping their thoughts and dreams and hopes to themselves.
And yet I kept coming back to you, thanks to the generous support of people who understood your worth and who must have understood that I had to be with you.
I hope you’ll forgive me for choosing to forgo the chance to live with you on your soil and with your people. 13 years after making that decision, I’m just now understanding why I traded that opportunity for the desperate desire to be longed for and cared for by a man. Please know that it wasn’t you—it was me.
13 years later, I’m finally becoming the person I think God meant for me to be. I think you’d be proud of me, and I know that if I see you again, we’ll pick up right where we left off. I had very little to give to you then, even though I imagined myself to be your vigilante and savior. I know now that I never was, and I never will be. I’m not cut out for that.
Someday, maybe He’ll restore to me the years I squandered chasing lesser things and allow me, at least one more time, to see you with my own eyes, to hear your people speak words to my heart that my ears can’t comprehend, and to hand hope over to those who need it most. Until then, I trust that He’s got you in His arms, the only arms big enough and strong for the job.