Post-New Outlook, Pre-Perfection
When the guilt hits, it strikes quickly and with little warning.
I just got to the doctor’s office for a post-operation appointment (ACL reconstruction-left knee, compliments of indoor soccer). I plop down on one of those deceiving uncomfortable chairs and grab a magazine. Inside front cover: something about Cambodia. It’s inescapable. I like to think it’s a destined sort of thing, when really it’s just that I’m finally noticing.
Time ticks by -30 minutes – that’s just how it seems to go to at these kinds of places. It’s a waiting game. To distract myself, I people watch. There is an elderly couple sleeping, parents on their phones, while their children watch the exotic fish swim in the massive tank. Oh, definitely just saw the yellow fish from Nemo-my bubbles – and now they’re keeping the fish alert by ignoring the “Do not tap on the glass” sign. -50 minutes – I’m starting to get frustrated…and a bit antsy. The room is practically empty now…what is taking so long?? My frustration is building, then a different emotion floods in: guilt.
My conscience is screaming, “YOU ARE PRIVILEGED TO BE HERE!” Oh goodness…..”THIS SURGERY WAS A LUXURY NOT A NECESSITY!” That’s when the lump forms in my throat, reminding me why it’s called “getting choked up.” My eyes are flooded with tears as the images do the same in my mind.
The little boy with mange:
These are the ones who need a doctor they may never see. I will be patient.
I can’t remember how it was before. I don’t recall what it felt like to be content with my self-centeredness. It seems my mind has erased all evidence of finding impatient entitlement an acceptable state of being. No, I’m not practically perfect now. I’ve just changed. Now, my impatience is always met with a gut-wrenching perceptive check. We’re told we shouldn’t feel guilty; “blessed to be a blessing” the saying goes. Despite the truth of the phrase, the matter remains that the disgrace felt is a must. Allowing self-importance after what I’ve seen is absurd and wastes the gift.
It probably sounds less than desirable to live life constantly bettering your thought-process. I need it. My perspective has been changed indefinitely and to act any other way is not an option. I don’t use it as a license to judge, lecture, or criticize. It’s near impossible to explain the humbling process that takes place. I’ve noticed many people feel like it’s an entitling process for missionaries…for us to come back and treat those who have never been – and therefore may not understand the intensity of the depravity we’ve witnessed – as though they fall beneath our holiness. Give me a break. If anything, I feel far less obliged to comment on the choices of others; my outlook comes from a different place. It changes you for the better and for always.
Jen Hatmaker, author and missionary, wrote about missions, “I can’t unknow what I know, and I can’t unsee what I’ve seen; it leaves me aching.” I know what she means, I have the same ache inside that will never diminish. It sounds miserable, but I find it to be a stunningly sober reminder that life exists beyond myself. It is in that sobriety I choose to perceive reality.