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Jen Pollock Michel

( author + writer + speaker )

Found Wanting: Hannah Vanderpool, "I didn't want to stay in America."

I am curating stories for a blog project called, “Found Wanting.” (If you’d like to submit a guest post, learn more here.) During Jesus’ earthly ministry, it was not uncommon for him to approach the sick and sin-sick with this question: “What do you want?” In John 5, he speaks with a man lying next to the healing waters of Bethesda, a man who has been an invalid for 38 years.

“When Jesus saw him lying there and knew that he had already been there a long time, he said to him, ‘Do you want to be healed?’"

The man seizes an excuse. “I have no one to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up.”

Was it too much for this man to hope for healing?

What is too great a risk to invite the responsibility for walking again?

There can be fear in desire: fear that we will want what God will always refuse to give; fear that we will not want whatever God, in his sovereignty, chooses to give.

Ultimately, we are profoundly afraid of ceding into the hands of God our trust.

I’m grateful for those willing to share their stories of desire here. I'm neither applauding nor condemning their stories: rather, I am amplifying their desires - and reminding each of us that to be human is to want. In my book, Teach Us to Want, I write, “Desire takes shape in the particularities of our lives. We cannot excerpt desire from the anthology of our stories. Our desires say something about us – who we have been, who we are and who we are becoming. They tell a part of the story that God is telling through us, even the beautiful and complicated story of being human and becoming holy.”

To catch up on the series, read these featured stories: Amy Chaney, "I didn't want to be a coach's wife." Beth Bruno, "I've wanted beauty." Wendy Stringer, "I didn't want to move to suburbia." Steve Burks, "I've wanted to produce entertainment." Faydra Stratton, "I didn't want a child with Fragile X." Brook Seekins, "I never wanted to be a missionary in Africa." Sarah Van Beveren, "I have always wanted to be strong." Holly Pennington, "I didn't want to find out what I wanted." Larry Shallenberger, "I wanted to know what I wanted." Hannah Anderson, "I didn't want - because I couldn't afford to." Megan Hill, "I want your blessing." Bronwyn Lea, "I wanted a boyfriend, college scholarships, permission to sleep over at the popular kid's house." Jennifer Tatum, "I've wanted to be a woman of faith, but . . ." Sarah Torna Roberts, "I didn't want to be broken." Suanne Camfield, "I want a bigger house." Courtney Reissig, "I wanted a baby." Cara Meredith, "I've wanted it all." Anonymous, "I want to not want marriage anymore." Deborah Kurtz, "I wanted a husband." Ben Jolliffe, "I wanted nothing." Charity Singleton Craig, "I wanted to get married."

Today, Hannah Vanderpool shares her story of desire on the blog.

* * * * *

I didn’t want to stay in America. I’d just spent three of the longest years of my life in India as a missionary, along with my husband and three children. When I returned to the States, thirty-six lifetimes later, I was exhausted. The invisible fibers of my spiritual muscles had broken down through the relentless repetition of stress and spiritual warfare. The lactic acid of depression had seeped in, demanding that I slow down.

We came back home, but I didn’t want to call it that. The old me had died in India and the person returning to America was someone else. For every ping of pleasure the new me experienced (who doesn’t love a clean highway and fountain drinks?) there were moments of darkness, of anger. I found reasons to refuse the good in my country of origin, reasons to fear I might forget everything I’d learned while away.

We knew the Lord had led us to a season of rest in the US, but we kept waiting for Him to send us back to India when we felt better. Which was strange because at times living there had felt like it might be our undoing. But God did not send us back. It’s been two years since we returned to the States and, for reasons that become clearer with each day, at least for the time being, we know need to be right where we are.

I am learning that the Lord meant what he said when he promised never to leave or forsake us. I knew he was with us when our third floor apartment swayed during an Indian earthquake in year two. I sensed him nearer than skin when a crowd formed a riot next door in year three, chanting in chorus and threatening to burn our neighbors to the ground. Every illness, every trip to the bathroom that ended with my feverish cheeks pressed against the cool tile floor, he was there.

But the thing is, he’s here, too. When we found out that my grandmother has cancer, or discovered that my husband’s new job is more taxing than he could have imagined? We have known him near. When I sense a chill in the room after using the “missionary” word I have felt his comfort.

There’s a lot to love about America, though it may never feel quite like home to me again. But the chief reason to love it, the one that outstrips ubiquitous air conditioning, public libraries and cookouts with family, is that God is here. Right where he promised he’d be. And that makes it good enough for me.

* * * * *

Hannah VanderpoolHannah Vanderpool is a writer, world-traveler, and Jesus-follower. She can’t imagine a world without sisters and books. You can find her at