the surprise of brokenness.

not all who wander are lost.

i remember the first time i walked into the voc (slum) area. aunty was holding onto my arm, and attempting to have a conversation with me, but my mind was so preoccupied on my surroundings. my eyes had never seen what was infront of me before and it took immense concentration to direct my attention on the sentences being projected towards me by aunty. everything was just so foreign to my eyes, and my mind. people can talk about poverty, people can talk about suffering and desperation, but there is something about being in the midst of it. there is something about walking directly into the core of it that brings a complete revelation. there is something about it that changes your heart, that changes your thought process, and that changes even the steps you take, and your attention. 

when i first walked into the voc, i continued to consciously remind myself to move my feet forward. and then my sight, hearing, and smell began to wander. my eyes were catching the endless amount of children that were either walking around unclothed, or with teared clothing. my eyes were catching the garbage that i was constantly attempting to step over or around. my eyes were catching the extremely small and crowded homes. my eyes were catching the immense amount of people living in such a small community. my eyes were catching many pictures of hindu idols. my eyes were catching human waste put to the side of the road. my eyes were catching elderly people curled on the side of the curb attempting to get some sleep. my eyes were catching people bagging for any bit of food or money.

and then my ears kicked in. the sounds coming from the community even seemed different. my ears were listening to men and women yelling at eachother. my ears were listening to children screaming at eachother. my ears were listening to men yelling inappropriate things at me. my ears were listening to people calling out my name to grab my attention. my ears were listening to endless fireworks that seemed to be going off.

and then lastly my nose was a bit overwhelmed. my nose began smelling rotting garbage all around me. my nose began smelling burning of the cook pots outside the homes. my nose began smelling body odor. my nose began smelling scents that i wasn’t able to even recognize. 

that was the first time i walked into the voc. the surroundings were overwhelming - all of my senses hardly knew what to do. it wasn’t that i didn’t know what poverty was. it wasn’t that i was completely unaware that this these environments were present in the world that i live in. it wasn’t that i was living in a small bubble, where i refused to believe that the poor didn’t exist. but there is something that happens when you’re there. instead of having the comforts of your home, while discussing what poverty is, you are there. you are breathing the poverty, you are smelling the poverty, you are seeing the poverty. you are in the poverty. there is no going back either. you can’t just walk into poverty, walk out, and the continue on with your life per usual. something changes. what your eye sees begin to change, what your ears hear begin to change, and what your nose smells begins to change. 

it happens over time though. i think the change is immediate, but it takes a bit to recognize the shift, and to embrace it. not only embrace it, but make a conscious decision that you aren’t going to ignore it, but instead make a choice to be engaged, and willing. it has taken me over a month to fully recognize the change, and begin to understand what is beginning to happen within me. 

now, when i begin to walk into the voc, my feet take slower steps, and even stop for a few moments. not so i can catch my breathe, or because i can’t bare to take one more step, but because i’m talking with someone. because someone called out my name, and no longer do i want to take another step, but instead talk with that person in the little tamil i know, and the wide range of hand gestures that i now seem to use on a regular basis. 

and my eyes are catching different things now. before the surroundings got me; the physical things that were around me were consuming my sight. and although i still notice those, there is something different that my eyes are focusing on now. my eyes are catching the empty eyes of that elderly woman that is always sitting on the edge of the curb of the first street. my eyes are catching helplessness of the woman who doesn’t know what happened to her child’s health and now spends her days laying on a concrete floor. my eyes are catching the endless amount of families that are struck by bondage and captivity due to the worshiping of idols. my eyes are catching the children torn between the world of jesus, and the world of hindu traditions within their family. my eyes are catching the desperate attempts to make ends meet. my eyes are catching brokenness. raw and indescribable brokenness.

and my ears are listening to different sounds now. before it was noise of the place, it was the act of shouting, or screaming that my ears caught. but, instead now it is the silent cries that grab my heart and my ears become completely tuned in. my ears are listening to the painful silence as a girl who loves jesus, but has a family that is convinced she needs to marry a hindu man. my ears are listening to the cries of a shattered heart as she reaches out her hand, pleading for a few coins. my ears are listening to the endless cries for care and love. my ears are listening to brokenness. silently, loud brokenness.

and my nose is beginning to smell different scents now. before it was the obvious scents of the environment, but now it is the hidden scents that take a little while to acknowledge. my nose is smelling the only meal of the day for a family. my nose is smelling the only option for putting their garbage somewhere. my nose is smelling hours of hard work to wash clothes for the week. my nose is smelling the cries of bondage and forced participation of hindu rituals. my nose is smelling brokenness. doubtful and enduring brokenness. 

however, there is something about recognizing brokenness that has caused a complete revelation about jesus. 

i am more likely to have jesus revealed to me and through me in weakness than in strength, sinfulness than in purity, or doubt than in perfect faithfulness. in the bible jesus wasn’t overly stoked about spending a lot of time with the rich, but instead was immersed in the poor, sick, unhealthy, desperate people. jesus was among the broken. it’s interesting though because the all-powerful lord may seem distant and even frightening; the spotlessly perfect and unique christ may seem unattainable. but yet he was there. and he is here now. whenever i walk into the voc, all i see is jesus. to my left, right, behind me, infront of me, everywhere jesus is there. 

why? because jesus made the decision to be broken as well. jesus went to the cross and was broken, and died for all the sins of the world. because he allowed himself to be broken, we can meet them within our brokenness. the voc can meet him within their brokenness. many people don’t know that this option is there - they don’t know salvation. which is why jesus then takes people out of the comforts of their home and places them in environments which seem overwhelming, dark, empty, and helpless. the environments are broken, so jesus brings together willing hearts and hands, and uses these people to begin the restoration process. 

it’s a continual surprise to me though that god pours out his glory into a dusty and cracked, broken even, jar of clay like the voc. but he does, everyday, every moment, when the people open up to him. it’s so surprising that it is easy to miss, easy to dispense with the ludicrous ways of life that jesus might be right here, right now. seeing is not necessarily believing. sometimes it’s believing that allows us to see. everytime i go into the voc though, i remind myself to look for jesus’s presense in myself and in others. i have come to expect that i will see him, but somehow, it’s still a surprise when he shows up. but he does, time and time again. in the distorted, obscure images - the midst of brokenness there are smiles, and laughter, and love. in the midst of brokenness there is jesus.

suffering without meaning is the path to despair. suffering with meaning is the trail to glory. and jesus is on the pioneer on that trail. there’s no place we can go that he hasn’t been already. 

Originally posted to not all who wander are lost.