I was lying on my bed, nose buried in a textbook, attempting to wrap my mind around the concepts that filled the thick volume. I was struggling a bit, and leaned back against my pillow, my eyes wandering across the room to the pictures the roommate had tacked to the wall above her bed. My eyes unfocused for a moment and I let my mind return to where it has spent so much time over the past two years: Mexico.
A mental image; a snippet of a memory, appeared before me, and I paused for a second to relish the sweet moment, only to feel a wave of sadness wash over me as the memory faded. I miss Mexico so very much.
I sighed and looked back down at the textbook for a minute or two, forcing my brain to read the words in front of me. I pulled my notebook onto my lap and scribbled a note or two on the page, then, on impulse, wrote one more word in the margins of the page: “WHY?”.
Then it hit me.
Why do I miss Mexico? I thought, once again letting my textbook slip out of my hands. I have posted pictures of the children at the Casa Hogar, written essays about my experiences there, blogged prolifically about the whole experience, but that doesn’t answer why. Why are the place and the people so important to me? Why do the things that I saw and heard there affect me so deeply, touching my heart in a way that few other things do?
And I think I know at least a part of the answer.
It’s the open hearts. I cried rather frequently during the two months that I lived with Hermano Manuel and Hermana Tere. Did I cry for myself? Occasionally, yes. But not always. More often, I cried for them. I cried for the pain that the children of the Casa Hogar endured and survived in the years before they came to live at the Casa Hogar. I cried for the scars that they carry so deep in their souls. I cried for the raw love, emotion, and hurt that I saw around me every day.
But it wasn’t all tears and sadness. The openness of heart that I experienced carried right over to the happy. And it’s not just happy; it’s joy. Amidst the pain and broken, there is joy. The laughter of children. The kind-hearted teasing of Hermana Tere and Hermano Manuel. The joking and riotous amusement of the older girls, my sisters and my friends.
Opening my heart to love and feel; to accept whatever the LORD brings to me is a constant struggle. It’s not easy for me to go through my life without my arms crossed protectively across my heart, warding off any unchecked emotion that may come my way. But, by some miracle, God enabled me to live with my heart open in Mexico. Through His strength, I put my heart, the most vulnerable part of any human being, into His hands, and I left it there.
And I felt pain so fierce that I wanted to leave that place and walk back to Chicago, and never look back. And I laughed so hard that I came closer to peeing my pants than I have ever before in my life. And I loved and was loved and I saw God moving vividly and actively.
That’s why I miss Mexico.