It happens when you least expect it. Not often enough to count on it, but enough to watch for it. The magic. Those moments when something about the host culture grabs your heart and squeezes. Those moments when you encounter someone who disrupts your day in the very best way.
I am a person who rushes. Most days I have no time for wonder, for mindless musing on the beauty of my host culture. I am a person who shines in chaos – I can cut through it like a fin through water. Because of this, God has to disrupt me with Presence or Peace or Joy. I forget about them. God has to disrupt me with the magic.
I was marching down the street in my neighborhood recently taking my dog on a walk. It wasn’t a Nora Ephron-esque moment of quirky neighborhood life with my dog – no, this was a task I was checking off my list. Get the dog out, get him home, get to the office. As I was mentally reviewing my to-do list for the day, a tottering old man came around the corner. He seemed to be frustrated and waved his cane at me as he walked toward me. I attempted to pull my dog away from where he was walking, as I assumed we were in his way. As he passed me, with one gesture, he broke off a piece of the baguette he was carrying and with a flourish offered it to my dog. The man patted my dog on the head and we were on our way.
I laughed all the way down the street and smiled all the way home. This little moment of beauty had interrupted my morning and colored the rest of my day. And I thought to myself, why does this place hold so much more magic than home? It’s because I’m out in it. I’m walking around, on the train, so much more engaged in day to day life than at home. I’m engaging everyday in this city life which is so foreign and uncomfortable to this Indiana girl. But that’s where the magic is.
Magic is only found in chaos. And I’m not talking about the Magic some of us grew up learning to boycott. I’m talking about those moments that leave a trail of glitter behind it, little sparks of life that should have the sound of chimes behind. Evidence of something greater, little kisses of love from a creator. I’m talking about you, in the city you can’t understand, getting a free apple and a wink from an old lady at the marketplace. Or you, working and working with no result, suddenly seeing someone understand. Or you, who thought you were going on great adventures, stuck at home under piles of laundry and diapers and having a sweet moment with your kids.
You can’t have the magic without the chaos. You can’t have a spark of light without surrounding darkness. You can’t have new creation without something to start from – some brokenness; some chaos. In the beginning, there was chaos. There was darkness. But before the chaos, there was the Spirit. And, really, it’s the Holy Spirit in the chaos that brings that magic. The Holy Spirit is there, hovering over the chaos, waiting to spark that light.
I have more days of chaos than of magic, and after seven years, I have learned to see that as normal life. But every time we have a new team member, and they start to tell us about something that has happened in the city to them, I know they have found it. And I know they understand.
What do you find to be the most chaotic aspect of your host culture? What ‘kisses from heaven’ have you found in the midst of this chaos? What beauty in the everyday was striking when you first arrived but now gets overlooked?