Readers and friends,
I’ve been in India for a month now, well exactly a month yesterday, and although my time here has been fun and fulfilling, God has been trying to bring another f-word into my life: freedom. For far too long I’ve been sitting on the sidelines, hesitatingly accepting hospitality from others, feeling afraid to fully immerse myself into the lives of the families that God has placed me in for the time being. I’m too scared to jump right in, allowing others to treat me as part of their own. I’m afraid that one day they’ll suddenly look at me and say, “Who are you? What are you doing here? You don’t belong here! Get out!”
When someone does something nice for me, an act of service, I find it hard to fully embrace it. I often feel like I owe them something. I feel like I’m in debt to them. I feel so incredibly guilty. Even with people I’ve known for years, I find it very hard to accept their open and giving hospitality. Here’s an example:
I have a family in India that I call my own family. I met them three years ago and have hosted them once in New York. They’ve hosted me twice in India. I call the wife “Momma” and the husband “Dad.” Their two sons are my two brothers and they call me their sister. When Momma and Dad introduce me to their friends, they refer to me as their “daughter from the U.S.” When one wants to care for their family members, they do anything, right? With no complaints, right? Why do we care for our family members with all of our hearts? Because we love them. Because they’re family.
Well, my biological family is different. Growing up, my childhood was terrible. I grew up in a home where I was yelled at for every little thing. If I sat for too long on the couch, I was yelled at and called lazy. If I forgot to do the dishes or take out food for dinner, I was yelled at and called lazy. If I left my room a little bit messy for a few days, I was yelled at and called lazy. If I finished a bag of chips or cereal, I was yelled at and called greedy. I became afraid of doing anything. I couldn’t sit, stand, eat, clean, or do anything properly. My entire existence was just me walking on eggshells around my own house. The thing is, I never realized this when I was a kid, because I was just living it and trying to survive. Now that I’m approaching my mid-twenties, flashbacks and memories are coming up every so often and it reduces me to tears and maybe a little panic attack, which is what happened last night.
My Indian momma and dad consistently care for me, through feeding me, giving me the room with the A/C, taking me wherever I have to go, buying things for me, and just generally loving me in spite of my past and flaws. They give me advice, guidance, and unconditional love. Last night, all of this came to a point where I cried a little in the car on the way home from driving twenty minutes to pick up my contact lenses. My Indian dad just drove me there and back with no hesitation. While in the car, I had memories of being a child and teen, having different appointments, and hearing complaints from my father. “Why do you have so many things to do?” “You’re costing me so much gas money.” “Everything you do costs money.” I distinctly remembered feeling like a small child when these memories came back to me. I heard my father’s voice in my head. I was transported back to that time and the panic began. My pulse quickened. My body flushed. I didn’t want my dad and brother to know I was having a panic attack, so I swallowed my feelings and prayed that God would let me get home quickly so I could cry in my room.
I got in my room and called my mother in the U.S. She cried with me and lamented for what happened all those years ago. She encouraged me to share these feelings of guilt with my Indian parents. I really didn’t want to. I was afraid that I wouldn’t be able to express them well. I was scared that they wouldn’t understand. They saw that my face was sad so they asked me what was wrong and that opened the floodgates of my feelings. They already knew about my childhood so I told them that I was having flashbacks and that I felt guilty for eating their food, taking their nice room, and letting them do nice things for me. Momma immediately started rubbing my back and Dad said countless encouraging things. One of my little brothers came over to me with mango ice cream. He shows love with acts of service. The other brother gave me a little smile from across the room. He’s not the best with emotional things. My Indian parents immediately said, “Gabby, you’re family. You belong here. You belong so much here. This is your home. No need to feel guilty.” Then they reminded me of Christ’s words when He told us that when we leave our biological families, we find parents and siblings everywhere else.
Lord, help me accept these families as gifts from Your hand.