When I first began writing this, it was 6am and I had been restlessly tossing and turning since 3am. The relentless cacophony of honking horns, barking dogs, screaming men, and wailing idol worship isn’t the most peaceful of lullabies. But I’m not quite sure if it’s that, the jet lag, or the anxious hurt in my heart that has kept me from sleeping. It’s probably a combination of all of those things. Regardless, I was up, drinking warm tea with the crisp, delicious shortbread cookies that everyone seems to always have in their hand and my heart felt content to be here in India with this team and these strangers all around me I somehow already love so deeply.
Yesterday was our first official day in India. Unfortunately, most of our sightseeing in Delhi was cut short due to rain and various closures around the city. The Lotus Temple was closed, and we made it back to our taxi right before it began to downpour. Kalkaji Temple was next on the list, but everyone besides Liz and myself stayed in the taxi. Apparently, this wasn’t the kind of place you necessarily put at the top of your list to visit again. Now that I’ve experienced it, even mentally returning to such a dark place is a bit of a challenge.
Kalkaji Temple is a Hindu Temple, home of the goddess Kali. When Liz and I entered, the rain was still coming down, spreading dirt all across the broken tile. I squirmed a bit as I removed my sandals and stepped onto the cold ground. To get to the center of the temple, we had to wander past the countless booths where vendors sell treats and trinkets to be laid before the idols and of course, past the “untouchables” who crouched under the covering to escape the rain.
There was an outer circle surrounding the inner place, where the goddess Kali – a cold, hard, statue of a face – blankly stared back at us. “They have eyes but do not see, ears but do not hear.” We entered into the center and people pressed in on us from every side. Men treid to hand us things to give to the goddess and looked at us questionably when we declined. The loud gongs reverberated through the place, a sorry excuse of a summons to their gods to awaken.
It’s difficult to understand such devotion to a god that must be woken up and fed – a god that was created by mere human hands, who makes no sound nor makes no motion. Liz and I peered through a small opening to see a large group of women worshipping a god on the other side. There was a woman furiously rolling her head around in circles, crouched on her hands and knees. I spotted a woman who mindlessly swayed along to the music, smiling and clapping her hands. There was a vacancy in her eyes. “Those who make them become like them; so do all who trust in them… They have eyes but do not see, ears but do not hear.”
As we drove to the airport this morning to catch yet another flight, we sang together as a team, How Deep the Father’s Love for Us. As I gazed out the window, the words of the song resonated deep into my heart, more than they ever have before:
“Behold the Man upon a cross,
my sin upon His shoulders.
Ashamed I hear my mocking voice,
call out among the scoffers.
It was my sin that held him there
until it was accomplished.
His dying breath has brought me life.
I know that it is finished…
Why should I gain from His reward?
I cannot give an answer.
But this I know with all my heart,
His wounds have paid my ransom.”
I could have been that woman, blindly worshipping a false idol. In fact, I was that woman. My gods just took different forms and my worship of them was cleaned up to look like something better.
Oh Church, may we not take for granted the grace of our God. We are no less deserving of eternal punishment than the lost people of India. But God, in His divine sovereignty and mercy has seen fit that we would be blessed with the Good News of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, not so we could keep it to ourselves, but so that He might use us to share it with the world. To whom much is given, much is required, and I pray that we would respond to the call whole-heartedly, never forgetting the depths of such a love, and our undeserved inheritance as children of God.
Please pray for us as we head to our final day of training before we celebrate with our 140+ graduates!