You know that quote by Jim Eliot? The one on all the mugs and t-shirts? “Wherever you are, be all there.” It’s been on my mind, only my variation sounds something like, “Wherever you are, be a student there.” Before you do anything else, be a student of the place you find yourself.
“Well, of course”, you may say. It’s not as easy as it sounds. The natural inclination for most of us, I believe, is to want to help.
My lovely husband recently told a story about our son and his overwhelming desire to help. Ross was trying to sweep the floor and Jude really, really wanted to help. He kept saying, “Daddy, help you.” “Daddy, help you.” But whenever Ross tried to let him help, he made a huge mess of things as he launched dirt around the room instead of sweeping it up.
This is us.
This is me.
I launch dirt around the room all the time as I attempt to help. I haven’t listened first. I haven’t learned first. I haven’t humbled myself to be a student of the place where I live…with it’s very complex history, culture, and identity.
And let’s be perfectly frank here. Those of us who have partners back home who sent us out and support us to do the work we came to do…we struggle majorly with not wanting to disappoint. We’re here now. We’ve arrived in this foreign land and we don’t want to feel like phonies. But when ego takes over and we need to prove that we have something to offer…we start launching that dirt all over the room again.
So this is my present struggle here in Nepal: remaining a student and attempting not to make a mess of things. Daily my ego springs up to say “Please, let me help! Please, let me help!” And daily I have to remind myself that my security and identity is not based on what I can DO. In fact, my security and identity is already a done deal. I’m a daughter no matter what. I’ve already been covered from head to toe with grace and love and a new name. My future is secure. All striving has ceased. (ha, no it hasn’t but it should!)
Is the true calling to continuously become a better student of the place we find ourselves in? To be a better student of the people we are surrounded by?