by Anthony Vasquez
Our family has now been in India for a couple of months, and it has been an amazing experience. All the adjustments that one person or family has to make: for instance, learning how to fairly bargain with most merchants or how to best avoid stomach issues by learning the right way to clean produce. We have experienced so many practical aspects of adjusting to life in India that I sometimes wonder if we are being stretched or just broken into different pieces. It’s often said that by moving into a new culture, you learn more about yourself than you thought you ever would or would want to. Indeed, there are so many ways that the Lord reveals Himself to us.
For me, transitioning our life has revealed a life-long pain that I have always wished would go away. Growing up in a broken home, I always struggled with the harsh reality of not having my father around. Despite all of our attempts to reconcile our relationship, there is still a lack in my life and residual pain. Now, here in India, on any official documentation, a person needs to sign, there is always a line after your name where you must provide your father’s name. Even for our Indian peers, the amount of documentation the government requires is comical.
And so after signing a rental agreement, one notes his or her father’s name. After registering as a foreigner, one notes his or her father’s name. After registering at the local police office, one notes his or her father’s name. After signing for one’s child’s school application, one notes his or her father’s name. After opening up a new bank account, one notes his or her father’s name. After signing up for a new phone plan, one notes his or her father’s name. You get the picture: it goes on and on.
After the third time I had to take note of my father’s name, my heart began to scream. Wait a second. My father has nothing to do with this. I am getting this done, I am my own, and he has nothing to do with any of this. And each new time I had to acknowledge my father’s name, the Spirit pressed into me and called for repentance of my own blackened heart. I began to ask others why there is such a need to identify one’s father’s name on all official documentation. I quickly learned that individuality is not a virtue in this culture, as it seems to be in Western cultures. In this culture, the family system is an integral aspect of one’s identity, community is valued and prioritized over the individual, and fathers bear responsibility in practical and symbolic ways that can be both positive and beautiful reminders that we belong to someone. I seriously thought that, for the most part, I would be helping people see the powerful truth about ideas having consequences. But, instead, God has revealed a piece of my broken heart and all the pain that still resides through an idea in this culture and probably in many more cultures around the world. We belong to someone, to each other, to family, to parents, and there is more weight to that than the individualistic culture that I grew up in. I thank our Lord for this beautiful aspect of India. He is my father, I have a father, and I am a father.
I will paint all this pain.