Just last week, I was waking up on the opposite end of the world. Literally. I think Kolkata is geographically the same distance east and west from Saskatoon. I can truly say I travelled half way around the world. I would go to sleep early in our hotel, aptly named Hotel Heaven, which made me smile when I first read it. I was either going to love it or die there. It was a comfortable place to land at the end of the day and it had air conditioning so it felt luxurious to me. Each night, as I fell asleep I'd turn off the air conditioning and listen to the sounds of the street below. I loved the noise of the city in my ears, telling me the story of nighttime in Kolkata. Sirens. Shouts. Music. Intent conversations. Horns and the intermittent sounds of the ancient street trams that rattled by sounding like someone shaking a tin can full of bottle caps in my ear. Around 3 or 4 am every night I would wake up. Partly because it was late afternoon back in Canada, partly because the room was now 29 degrees and I was sweltering and needed to put the a/c back on for a bit. The beautiful thing about that middle of the night waking time was the silence. When you've gone to sleep with noise in your ears, the silence is comforting in its own right. I would lay there until the room cooled, read or play a game of solitaire on my phone in the dark, until I could turn the a/c off again and go back to sleep till about 6 am. The first two nights I tried to occupy those dark hours. The third, fourth and fifth night, my mind was full of the people I'd met, the foods I'd tried, the children I'd played with, the slums we'd walked in. Several of those nights, I just lay and tried to hold my heart and mind open to what God was telling me or trying to teach me. Before I went to India, I had been thinking through some of the areas in my life in which I needed to bring changes to. I'd written down a small line in a book I carry around, a prayer of sorts, "More of You. Less of me." In those dark hours, I would repeat that line and offer it up and listen for whatever answers or suggestions would come back. I'm not great at meditation, my mind tends to flee at the slightest noise and by the time I reel it in, I'm not sure where I left off. This line, "More of You. Less of me" gave me something to come back to when I was wondering if I had given the media guy at church the password for the youtube channel. Things you think about in the middle of the night in Kolkata. A few nights passed with these regular hours of silence and I was beginning to enjoy the practice of just laying still, listening to the rhythmic drip of the a/c on the floor, and repeating the phrase. One night, I'm not sure at what point, I may have dozed off, I may have heard from God, it may have been both. I was laying in the dark and realized that what I was hearing was, "Less of You. More of US." Isn't that in a nutshell? Yes, less of me. Absolutely. But more of US? That came out of the dark and illuminated my brain. I think I'm often apt to release my cares and concerns in desperation, with a sort of throwing it at God in an "okay-you-do-it" type of way. I'm not saying that's always wrong...I am saying that when I do it, it's not often with a willing, contrite spirit of leaving things gently and confidently in His hands. But this? The idea that God wants less of me alone and more of us together...that changed something in me.
So, it's barely 5 am here back on my half of the planet. I'm awake. The house is creaking in the cold. The furnace is humming and the last night train has shuffled past. Snow is flying sideways in the orange light of the street lamp and the dog is snoring beside me on the couch. Having a labrador means you're never alone, even when insomnia hits. I'm thinking of small girls, like one named Puja, rescued from a garbage pile at 3 days old and raised by compassionate strangers as their own. I think of her smiling and pulling a funny face as she stands with her classmates in the halls of her school dormitory, half a world away indeed from the desperate beginning of her life. Of a girl named Jashlyn, saucy and strong, fiercely competitive in sports and games as we played in her community. Running amongst the shacks in the slum, she's the girl the boys tried to take out of the game at every turn, her skills threatening their own. I think of the small girl who, when asked, if being at school made her miss her family, shook her head solemnly "No". Her face passive as Jaishree, the director of OneLifeUp operations in India, explains to us that school is a respite for this little one from the abuses and violence of her home in the Nalpur slum. I think of Piyas and his wife, who open their home for girls like these during school holidays, so that they need not return to the slum and the violence there. And as the clock clicks away, these girls are ending a day of classes and heading in for dinner. I'm curled up on the couch, not even ready for breakfast. It makes no sense that all these things can happen simultaneously across the globe. It makes me feel small until I think of how God works. Through us. In spite of us. With us. As "us". There's nothing bigger than that.