Incredible are the moments that everything stands still and a memory fights its’ way to the surface of your mind…and instantly you are transported to that exact moment in time as if it was just yesterday.
Some moments can be painful. The never ending cycle of memories after a loved one passes away is particularly brutal in my experience. Or even the pain of something someone has said that plays over and over like my version of a self-inflicted horror film. It is so true that you cannot take back words once they are out…and people live with that pain for a very long time.
But then there are the warm fuzzy moments that fight their way through. Filling you with that beautiful feeling of being loved, and at peace…content…I also have a fondness for the humorous memories. I’ve been known to make myself laugh just thinking about them!
Then there are the moments that are in seasons of your life that define you. Those are my God-memories. The moments that are linked to times in my life that God was sculpting me into the woman he needed me to be in this world. That’s where I was transported last week in a split second during lunch with a friend.
We’d been talking about everything under the moon at a new Chinese restaurant we’d wanted to try for over a year. I’m always on the search for Chinese traditional dumplings that actually taste like Chinese dumplings. And this new place was a delicious symphony of flavor and styles of dumpling…literally, I was in heaven.
I was holding my chicken dumpling in my chopsticks, raising it to my mouth…when Mandarin floated to my ears. In my brain, time stood still as I was instantly transported back into the kitchen of my Chinese roommate…
It was the first weekend of 3 ‘home’ visits with our roommates, and honestly…I was apprehensive. For an entire weekend I would have no Americans around me, meet an endless stream of relatives, and the only person able to speak English would be my roommate.
Outside of my comfort zone? I was so far outside my comfort zone that I felt like God had picked me up like a cat toy and was tossing me around for fun.
But in that kitchen, with an incredibly hospitable family…cultures merged, barriers were demolished and I caught a glimpse of myself that I’d never seen before. Last week the smells filled my nose, and the memory of Yan Ruting’s mom walking around the tiny kitchen making sure everything was perfect filled my vision. Her dad was standing by the stove with the steam pouring out of the pot the dumplings they were in…her parents were a well-organized dumpling machine. I’d never had steamed dumplings before I was in China, and homemade is the way to go!
One of the best things about this seemingly beautiful memory is…it marks a time when God started teaching me that loving God with everything you have means living it out being exactly who God created you to be. Over the 3 weekends I was in their home I couldn’t ‘preach’ to her or her family. I couldn’t even talk to them…but I could be an excellent guest, smile a lot and love them with ever fiber of my being. Being a part of God’s kingdom is knowing that you are participating in it wherever you are…international missionaries are no different from stay-at-home moms pouring into their kids. It’s about the simplest things you can do, and throwing expectations out the window. It’s about loving God enough to love others well. It’s about letting God be your comfort zone, and the freedom that comes with surrendering control. It’s about being a part of someone’s life…not because you have to, but because you want to be in their life.
Several months after our summer team left, Yan Ruting started really reading the Bible…and while God had been moving in her while we were there…she started truly believing what the Bible said. Many times while we were there, she would comment about there was something different about us…joy, love and community. She was right, we had a common thread of belief in Jesus and believing that he is still alive and active around us.
I haven’t heard from her in years, but for 7 years afterwards we wrote back and forth. In those years, she got married…had a baby…her mom got sick, then healthy. And every time I think about her I remember her family who welcomed a complete stranger into their home, and showed her what being a part of a Chinese family felt like.
And imagine…all that in 10 seconds while holding a dumpling and hearing Mandarin chatter in a restaurant. God moments are beautiful, and when he transports you back to that memory…it’s a perfect reminder that he still calls us his own.