I got a phone call today from a dear friend. She and I lived in India together for three years. We weren’t working in the same city, but we saw each pretty frequently and talked or Skyped in the off times. She’s back in the States for six months before returning to a city that our family has come to love.
Her voice sounded faded and small on the phone. She’s only been back in the country for a week and she described to me the familiar ex-pat feelings of fatigue, emotional isolation, and being overwhelmed inside malls. She’s finally able to sleep until 4:00 a.m. every morning, and she considers that an accomplishment (so do I). Together we celebrated stable Internet connections, perfect soft ice from Sonic, and clean streets with wide, paved lanes. We commiserated with one another about having to put on our happy faces and employ our spiritual one-liners for people who ask, How was your trip over there?
In India women cook rice with pressure cookers. I suppose people use them here, too, but in India they’re ubiquitous. They save cooking time by creating an unbelievable amount of pressure and steam inside their cauldrons. What would normally take a long time is accomplished in minutes.
Today my sweet friend and I mused that life in India has been a pressure cooker for both of us. The Lord has allowed an unbelievable amount of pressure and steam to build into our lives, such that we’ve sometimes felt that we couldn’t stand it any longer. Spiritual impurities have risen to the top in our hearts and we’ve been left tired, yes, but also softer.
I’ll admit that I didn’t like life in a pressure cooker. I did love aspects of living overseas and some of my dearest friends are from India. But the stress was overwhelming at times. We were only there for three years but it felt like we experienced life in dog years, twenty-one diwalis packed into three. That’s hard to explain to people who haven’t lived in developing countries, but of course my friend understood perfectly.
And while rice that’s been pressure-cooked can’t truly grow hard again, human hearts can. So I am asking the Lord to keep my family and me soft, to keep bringing up the impurities in our lives, to keep us from unlearning what we’ve already learned in the pressure cooker, at sometimes-painful personal cost.