There. I said it.
I know you’re thinking: “But why?! You grew up here and it’s home. What would be the problem with coming back to what you know so well?”
Here’s why: It doesn’t know me anymore.
The point is that you’re here, but not fully Peruvian. You live in it while still seeing it from the outside, holding at arm’s length anything that doesn’t fit you.
But at the same time, you slough off tons of assumptions and comfort zones and blinders and leave behind arguments and priorities that are meaningless in a third world country. You have to learn a new language to communicate your most heartfelt thoughts and that changes your most heartfelt thoughts in a way that doesn’t directly translate back to English.
You see an atheist find God and watch syncretistic Catholics fear unseen elves and trust first in Mary so you learn that nothing is certain and lines drawn in the sand don’t really stop anyone from getting confused as to where they stand. You observe that the name on the building matters not. one. iota. because every category encompasses some good, committed hearts and some distracted, uninvested ones.
You study the Bible with those seeing the story with fresh eyes and new questions and you end up having to ask the Spirit those same questions because they never occurred to you sitting in a pew for 25 years. They ring true and real and important, so you shift your attention to those and lose the desire to care about the familiar ones that clamor for the spotlight. You fall in love with a church meeting around a wooden table on someone’s dirt front porch with adults and kids in a jumble, working on memory verses together, with the grown-ups answering the review questions from the children’s lesson and the kids asking for help on their word find in the middle of the adults’ discussion. It ceases to be about who is in charge but about what the person next to you needs and how you can make that happen. Whether your daughter or the young neighbor dad passes your communion cup down the table is absolutely, completely irrelevant. All welcome and serve each other under the authority of Jesus our King with no further hierarchy required. You recognize it all as manifestations of freedom in Christ and your Spirit breathes anew in leaving behind the tangling confusions of unspoken rules.
And the thought of leaving all this and moving back to the States with a new me is daunting because I will be going home to a place that assumes I fit, but I don't anymore. And the process of breaking down the assumptions about who I am and what matters to me (and doesn’t) while maintaining relationships that were built in years past...that’s scary.
There are plenty who already walk with us in this journey, knowing us as best they can from afar, imperfectly though it may be, and we will rely on their grace all over again at that point. It’s the rest, those who have no clue, those who don’t realize what has changed, those who assume we would prefer to have stayed the same...it makes me wonder how many bridges have been burning while we paid attention to other things, how moving back will mean shattering the expectations of others, and if I will ever really be prepared to tackle it. Whose feelings will I hurt when the things that matter to them can't matter to me anymore? When they realize that I don't want to revert to their familiar priorities? When I can't stomach parts of American culture, knowing what I know about harsh Peruvian realities? We will technically speak the same language, but may be utterly unable to communicate.
The thing is, when it comes down to it, I like seeing the world this way.