Today I pulled out a pair of pants that I hadn’t worn since I got back from the States in August. They smell like liquid laundry detergent and dryer sheets and the laundry mat in Indianapolis where they were last washed. They have little drops of white paint splattered on the thighs from one of the last times I wore them. We were painting the basement of an old strip club with moisture-lock paint so that the basement could be used for storage when the strip club becomes a community center.
This week the temperatures dropped below 80 (look out!) and I wore my favorite zip-up hoodie once or twice – the hoodie I pretty much lived in this summer. It too still smells like liquid detergent and dryer sheets and Indy.
I thought for a long time that missing all of the ways I used to live made me a bad missionary or a bad Christian or something. Like if I admitted to people that sometimes I really missed the smell of clean laundry that comes from liquid detergent and dryer sheets that I would sound ungrateful and irritating. Or if I admitted to just really really wanting to wear a hoodie (a real big thick one) without sweating buckets that that would somehow negate how much I love the warm weather we have here.
I thought that I couldn’t love and appreciate my life in the Dominican Republic while still loving and appreciating my life in the States.
And you know what that is? A lie. A lie from the pit! A lie from a guy who would love for me to think that I am a crap Christian. That I should probably just pack it all in and move back in with my parents because I don’t even really appreciate how good my life is here. But that’s not true! I probably shouldn’t move back in with my parents (for a whole bunch of reasons) and IT’S OKAY TO NOT APPRECIATE VERY ASPECT OF YOUR LIFE EVERY MOMENT OF THE DAY.
Last night at Bible study we talked about James 3, about controlling your tongue, and about not complaining so much or “venting” (which we all know is code for “gossiping”). And I think my big black-and-white perspective on things doesn’t leave any room for both/ands. Like I can both love the Dominican Republic and my life here AND also really miss wearing big fat hoodies without sweating. Like you can both love your children with an undying, deeply-rooted love AND also miss the nights when you could sleep for more than three hours. And that doesn’t mean you don’t love your kids, it just means you’re a complicated human being capable of feeling more than one thing at a time.
Sirius Black once said something that really helped me change the way I see the world. He said, “The world isn’t split into good people and Death Eaters. We’ve all got both light and dark inside us. What matters is the part we choose to act on. That’s who we really are.”
Basically, both/ands exist and you can appreciate what you have while at the same time appreciating what you used to have. And the Harry Potter series is awesome and you should all read it and learn things.
The more time I spend here putting down roots and stuff the more it feels like home and the less weepy I get when I think about my home in the States (“home” here meaning a myriad of people and places and traditions and restaurants).
Today I wore my pants that still smell like a laundrymat in Indianapolis and ate McDonalds and missed my parents. But you know what? For maybe the first time in a while, I did and felt all of those things without any consequential guilt. Because I realize that international moves are hard and I should cut myself (and everyone around me) some slack. Because it’s okay to acknowledge things are hard. That doesn’t mean you’ve failed or should give up, it just means things are hard! Then, when you get through them, you’ll be able to look back victorious! having learned a few things and having grown. Because while the fun and easy times might be the ones we like to look back on, the hard times are the ones we learn the most from.
And as a teacher and a Jesus-follower and a human, I am all about learning.