I had a decision to make. To step off of the plane in Guatemala City, forget all the turbulence that I had just endured, shaking up my emotional state, releasing feelings of doubt and insecurity alongside memories of past failure. My stomach was churning and my mind was racing.
“It’s not too late.” I attempted to convince myself. “I can buy another plane ticket and turn around now. I don’t have to do this.”
But I did have to do this. It’s my calling, my adventure, my passion.
In opposition to the surging flow of past inadequacy that was seeping deep into my being through every pore and cranny, self-reassurance was my plan to attack the negativity pulsing within.
I can do this. I am supposed to do this. I am responsible for this.
To not be returned of love is a deep fear that resonates within my soul. It holds in the lowest, deepest nooks of my existence that are tucked away neatly for very few to see. While I know I am loved by so many, and with an even greater love by the Creator of the Universe, the devil himself hits me where I am weak. Still, the call to love others draws me in. The greatest of these is love is more than a word from the mouth of the Holiest of Holiest or a few words on a page from the scriptures of 1 Corinthians. It is a call to love strangers, enemies, and family alike. And I will testify, it is hard.
And not only is it hard, but it is a call to be brave.
The vulnerability of love is undoubted. To say “I love you” is an action of pure nakedness, the heart laid out before someone with a feeling that is so sincere, so deep, so raw. The return of this love is not promised, it is not guaranteed, and that is what makes it a glorious exchange when it is returned in full throttle with the matching “I love you” to the first offered.
So I sucked it up and stepped off of the plane, stepping foot into a steamy Guatemalan airport bombarded with beautiful brown-skinned people and a jumbled language that makes my head ache.
The next three weeks would be mine to serve, working in a village where families lived on less than $2 a day. I would work on homes and share the love of Christ with children and families through service at their school. Wherever there was a need, I was called to reach out my hand in love.
Naturally I was drawn to a beautiful teenage girl, Bianca, with glowing smile and warm heart, surprisingly left on the outskirts of her community. I often noticed her watching from afar, not engaging too deeply with anyone, just observing the actions of humanity. Too often we made eye contact that was held longer than usual, like an awkward middle school crush with too many nerves to even say hello.
The tug in my heart called me in. Despite my inadequacy in the Spanish language alongside my distinguished awkward tendencies I approached her with cookies from my lunch to share. A bribe to be my friend, aha! I’ve figured this brave thing out. So I thought.
I offered my cookies to the young girl and she took them quickly so she wouldn’t have to share. I thought nervously to myself…what now? My plan had failed. There wasn’t even a “gracias” to create a conversation from. I was cookie-less, friend-less, and courageous-less now.
“¿Cómo te llamas?” I began to mutter but still her eyes matched mine and no words were said.
My turbulent emotions from the plane flooded back and my courageous love was dwindling. Our interaction was the same plane that I just landed on a few days previous, this time crashing down with a spiraling effect.
Be brave – a quiet reminder with huge implications.
To my rescue, Bianca attempted to make a response of squawky noises and suddenly I knew – Bianca is mute.
To love without words left me feeling even more vulnerable. An extra leap would have to be made to demonstrate the words I love you with a genuine heart.
Over the next few weeks Bianca began to find me in random places. She showed up at my bus stop, construction sites, and school. Our courageous love, enacted by both, found each other — a brave calling reciprocated by two.
Guatemala makes me brave. The country brings me to a greater understanding of my inmost being; my responsibility to love is expressed through the most vulnerable love of questioned return of genuine care. A call of courage to brave rejection and awkward conversation is the beautiful exchanged of fully embracing the greatest commandment: love one another.
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