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Saturday, October 26, 2013

The People Are Many


The subway pulled into the station, and the doors opened. It was packed- people all the way up to the doorway, and none of them got off. So we pushed. The people in front of me, who had been waiting, pushed into the subway car, and I pushed them, and people behind pushed me, and I heard “Move! Move!” in Chinese.

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In English we say “It’s crowded.” In Chinese we say “人多(rén duō).” 人(rén) means “people” and 多(duō) means “a lot.” Literally, “The people are many.”

But it bothers me. Complaining that “it’s crowded”- this place is crowded- it’s a problem with the place. But when you say “人多(rén duō),” 人(rén) is the subject of the sentence. Like it’s a problem with the people. Like we don’t like people or something. It feels so dehumanizing to me. (Yes I know that Chinese people don’t think of it that way, because this is a completely normal thing to say in Chinese. I’ll get used to it eventually.)

I didn’t get a seat on the bus because 人多(rén duō). I had to wait in line and missed my train because 人多(rén duō). There’s so much traffic because 人多(rén duō). The concept of “personal space” doesn’t exist in China because 人多(rén duō). I took one look at the line outside the museum and decided it wasn’t worth it because 人多(rén duō). People stampede onto the subway car in the hopes of grabbing one of the few seats (AND IT TERRIFIES ME) because 人多(rén duō). Hang on tight to your purse because 人多(rén duō).

So when I go out with friends, we hope that 人(rén) aren’t 多(duō). Going to the park in the daytime is nice because 人(rén) aren’t 多(duō). We had a great time sightseeing because 人(rén) weren’t 多(duō). I hope 人(rén) aren’t 多(duō) on the subway so I can get a seat.

Doesn’t it kind of sound like I hate people? Like, these people are just trying to get to work, or enjoy their vacation, or go to a restaurant, just like me. They didn’t do anything wrong. But we don’t like how they’re so 多(duō).

The way I see it, it’s not that there are too many people in China, it’s that the space is too small.

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There are little sparrows here, just like in America. They look exactly the same. And it’s nice, something familiar, a reminder of home.

And when I see a sparrow flitting about, I remember what Jesus said: “Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground outside your Father’s care." Sometimes I feel so small and lost in a sea of people, but God cares about me. He sees every sparrow. And he cares about every person. Each and every one of the 1.3 billion people in China.

And I want to love like God, but I know I just can’t. I just can’t. Not when the people are many.

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You know what’s annoying? When I’m trying to buy myself an ice cream cone, but there are too many fearfully-and-wonderfully-made people, created in the image of God, each one with their own desires and dreams and fears, completely known and loved by God, and so it takes freaking FOREVER to get my ice cream.

I live in a huge city. I’ve never lived in a city as big as this. And the reality is, I have to view random strangers in public mainly as obstacles I need to navigate in order to meet my day-to-day needs. As much as I’d love to see people as God does, I just can’t. No human brain can do that. It’s completely mind-blowing and overwhelming.

Because the people are many.

I’m not God, I can’t be God, and I think it would be very unhealthy to even try. Every time I see a person, to think “here is a person created in the image of God, known and loved by him, isn’t that great, let’s pray that God would bless him/her,” and then feel guilty when I can’t keep up with it when 12 people get out of the elevator... No, my brain can’t handle that. No human can.

(Also I have to think about my own safety, before just trying to "love everyone." There's a small minority of people who would like to take advantage of me... I have to be aware of that rather than just naively thinking I can "love everyone"- because I'm not God.)

On the one hand, maybe this is good because it shows me how God’s love is so unimaginably massive. You know, more unimaginably massive than the population of China.

But on the other hand, I don’t want to see people as obstacles. I don’t want to be so overwhelmed that I can’t feel love toward my brothers and sisters.

I can’t love everybody. I just can’t. God can, but I can’t. And I know that it’s okay- God made humans limited like that. Just love a few people at a time- friends and family- and that will be enough. (And maybe pray, “God, bless EVERYBODY. Amen.”) That’s all I can do.

Because God made the people many.

1 comment:

  1. Hmmm ... Does your experience with "ren duo" throw any light upon Jusges 7:2 ("And the Lord said unto Gideon, 'The people that are with thee are too many'")? ...
    And/or dies Judges 7:2 throw any light, for you, upon "ren duo"?

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