We all got on this bus together. Hindus, Animists, Muslims, Christians, and maybe even some non-believers if there is such a thing in India - all of us traveling together on the same bus to various destinations.
India passes by out our windows, every one of them down to bring in fresh air.
We had moaned a little when we learned that we'd be riding a bus with no AC for 13-ish hours. After more than a week with no power and 100+ degree temperatures, we had kinda looked forward to some cool air. So when we slid our windows open and the bus began to roll, we were so relieved.
Pastor Steward had handed me a bag of chocolate cookies and bananas through the bus window before we pulled away. This wasn't going to be that bad, after all.
Because, you know, God-forbid that we should suffer.
I get a window seat and Tim is next to me, shielding me a little from the bumps and lack of personal space as passengers file on and off. Every single man that walks by gawks at us, and when your eyes meet their eyes there is no turning away. They just continue to stare.
So I face the window and snap pictures of the bicycles and vegetable stands and I watch as the sun sets, burning orange above the never-ending valley.
This place is beautiful and marred and rude and lovely, all at the same-sweaty-time.
The man in front of me rests his seat back and puts his hands above his head, on his head rest. It's so close to my face that I have to turn my head to avoid touching it.
The man behind us wants to talk to Tim. He asks too many questions and then laughs when Tim says he doesn't have a Facebook. Doesn't everyone have Facebook?
I think he's offended and he stops asking questions.
For awhile, there's a baby in front of Tim and she smiles as her mother dances her on her lap. She has shorn hair and sweaty skin and I take a sneaky picture with my phone. Only my flash is on, so it's not so sneaky.
Her mom glances back and then sets the baby down on her lap.
The man in front of me begins a conversation with Tim. Again, I feel like there are too many questions and when he flicks his hand for emphasis, I'm hard pressed for face-space.
He doesn't seem to notice.
He's coughing, and since he is reclined practically in my lap, when he turns his head he literally leans forward into Tim's lap and coughs. No hand over mouth, no attempt to shield anyone from the spray. He actually leans forward and coughs on my husband's legs.
I may have laughed.
But for the rest of his ride he is coughing and spitting out the window and I'm leaning in for cover. Too many wads of mucus have escaped one window, only to enter another, so I'm wary and awake.
I fell asleep sometime after he got off the bus.
I dream about social reform as well as spiritual life, about all the ways to make the air cleaner and the food more nutritious and the living easier for 1.2 billion Indian people. I get all idealistic, and then plummet to irritation and disgust at all the enemy has taken here, all the bondage and all the suffering.
Some things break my heart, and some things just plain irritate me.
I was thinking yesterday about Jesus, walking in to Jerusalem. I was thinking about money-changer's tables and cages of doves, about coins crashing all around, about pharisees and prostitutes and blind men and adulteresses. Dirty streets and sickly lungs and poor housing and curable diseases.
I was thinking about the crowds who wanted a king, not a Savior on a cross. They wanted some social reform and political maneuvering, and they got upheaval in their souls instead.
Jesus didn't come to overthrow Rome and He didn't give the answers people wanted. He didn't lead a march to freedom from foreign oppressors. He didn't come in the way people expected a Savior to come and He didn't stay and fight the way they had hoped their Messiah would.
The streets weren't cleaner and the diseases didn't stop. Evil men still persecuted the poor and oppressed the helpless. When He ascended, Rome was not even at the peak of her tyranny.
Sometimes, when I want everything to be better and nicer and cleaner and healthier, I remember suddenly that this is not supposed to be heaven-on-earth and God is not supposed to work according to my plans.
He has His ways.
And sometimes the evil is overcoming, but I read that I'm supposed to overcome evil with overcoming-good, a descriptive, adjective kind of overcoming. Like overwhelming.
That's how I hear it when I read it, that's what I hope we left behind, and that's how I picture it when I'm back home in my garden, when a plane ride takes me back to comfortable and everything is beautiful because my heart is thankful.
On the other side of the world and in my own home, evil always thinks it's overcoming. But this tidal wave of good, this overcoming and overwhelming and overachieving good, is mounting up. It's rising.
We all got on this bus together.
And everyone was beautiful.
Click to read:
India Chronicles, Part I
India Chronicles, Part II
India Chronicles, Part III