I didn’t expect for it to hit at a Chinese buffet in a small Texas town. I really couldn’t have planned it to be more melodramatic than that. There I was, pretending to pick over pieces of crab rangoon, desperately trying to fight back tears.
The tears were winning.
I don’t know what came over me. I don’t know why it hit so suddenly and unexpectedly. We walked in, and the waitress simply asked if I needed a high chair for Cora’s car seat. I could tell from her heavy accent that she’d be more comfortable speaking Chinese, and I muttered, “mei wenti, bu yong” before catching myself and saying “No problem. I can just set her on this extra seat.”
I felt like since she spoke English to me, I should speak English back… I don’t really know why. But in the moment and in that setting, saying anything in Chinese seemed silly… as if I wanted to show off. I don’t think she even heard my muttered Chinese. Or maybe she did – her eyes did sort of flash a look of surprise – but the moment quickly passed and she went on with her work. And the fact that I no longer felt free to speak Chinese broke something deep in my heart.
And that’s when it washed over me, for the first time since coming back… for the first time in nearly two months. I had wondered when it would hit, but I never would have guessed it would have been there. But there I was…
Wishing I was standing on different ground. In another place. Bent over steaming plates of noodles and suen la bai cai and shui zhu rou instead of staring at a platter of cloyingly sweet kung pao chicken and heat-lamp-warmed egg rolls. I wished I was turning around to a table of my friends – I could hear their laughter in my heart. Meals were such an important part of our life and our relationships in China… how many conversations shared over a bowl of steaming soup? And here I was, listening to Chinese pop music play softly in the background, pushing my food around my plate with a fork, avoiding eye contact with everyone else at the table and realizing that more than anything…
I wanted to go home.
And then something angry welled up inside of me… boiling, rolling, and spewing out of me in one singular question: “Where the hell is that?“
I am in my hometown. I’m sleeping in my husband’s childhood home. I live less than 15 minutes from the bedroom where I grew up. The town hasn’t changed much since my childhood. All signs point to this being “home.” Everyone we meet says things like, “Oh you must be so glad to be back.” I politely smile and nod my head… I am truly glad to be back. But their assumption that there’s no place I’d rather be than in this dusty, windy town leaves me a little angry. I want to sarcastically ask them, “Oh, do you think I stayed in China against my will all those years?” But indulging my anger by lashing out at those who are genuinely glad to have us back is cruel and destructive.
Since that moment 3 days ago in the restaurant, I have spent many hours crying. Spent many hours angry. I’m not sure why I’m angry… not even sure where to direct this anger… but it is there nonetheless. I’m angry that I don’t yet have a home to replace the one I left. (My underwear drawer is a suitcase.) I’m angry that I’m lonely – put in a place where I feel like an alien even though it is my “home.” (I miss our community and our church and our friends.) I’m angry that God’s provision for this season of our life puts us in a place I do not want to be. I’m angry that it doesn’t seem to be as hard for Jacob as it is for me. I’m angry that I feel so unrooted. So alone. So lost.
This doesn’t have resolution yet. To be honest, I’m not past the anger. I haven’t found the “moral of the story,” so this isn’t going to end on some inspirational note. Right now I’m just hurting. I’m sad and confused and uncertain about the future. I sense the Father beckoning me to let go of my anger and turn towards Him, but I’m not ready for that. I want to shake my fists at the sky and shout, “What was the point of all that!?!” Going to China was hard. Living there was hard. Seeing what we saw was hard. Coming back was hard. On lots of levels (emotionally, practically, financially, professionally), reentry is hard. It just seems like one giant cosmic joke right now. And I’m hurting and angry, trying to make sense of the mess.
I know this post might come as a surprise after my other writings these last few weeks… Writings that paint a polly-anna-rose-colored world. All I can say is that I think maybe I was hiding from myself; afraid to let the lid off. But for whatever reasons, it came off. And now I’m trying to process all the feelings that spewed out… I have no doubt that resolution will come, and I have no doubt of exactly where I’ll fall when I reach the end of my flailing, resisting, angry fighting…
The one thing that remains true in the midst of all of this is that Cora is a sign of God’s grace to me. Having a baby at the same time that we made this transition defies common sense. But, I’m now seeing that she is daily painting me a picture of His joy, love, and faithfulness. She is a tangible reminder to me that He is good and present, even in circumstances I do not understand.