Coffee House Night will happen eight days after we leave.
I noticed it on the calendar yesterday. A sudden reminder that soon I will say goodbye to people and routines I love. I knew this time was coming, but still feel sad about not being here when Coffee House Night happens.
We attend these evenings at a nearby church. Baked goods, a variety of coffees and teas, games, open mic nights, and most of all… wonderful people. The night when the spontaneous game of Win, Lose, or Draw™ happened is a great memory.
October Monster Mash at my Zumba class will happen after I’m gone.
Last year for Zumba Monster Mash, I dressed as an evil viking. I say evil jokingly (sort of), because when we first came back to the USA, I noticed some costumes available for purchase were kind of… how do I put this delicately…inappropriate.
So when I told my husband I was going to attend Ladies’ Monster Mash Zumba, I said,
“Don’t worry. I’m going as an evil viking.”
I was trying to communicate I would not be going as an inappropriate viking.
He thought it was funny.
(Everyone in class was well dressed by the way).
I’m sad about saying goodbye to my Zumba friends.
Kids in my Sunday school class will have a new teacher in a few weeks. Bible studies and other things I’m involved in will go on without me. Friends will have celebrations I’m not part of. I’ll have life changing experiences a long way from them. People will get married, have children, rejoice over blessings, and mourn losses. Time in my home country will not stand still.
When I return, I’ll need to be willing to get reacquainted with the newest versions of people I love— because in some ways they will not be the same.
I will have changed too, in ways I will not be able to fully explain, having experienced realities that do not translate well into my home culture. My husband and I will have grown in new seasons of marriage. Our daughter will be a few years older. While we’re gone we will develop deep relationships and a life we love. That life will be waiting for us in Asia after our next USA visit, but it will be far away so we won’t be able to show it to anyone.
People who are interested in knowing our family will have to be willing to get reacquainted with the newest versions of us.
The core of who my loved ones are and who I am will probably not have changed much over a few years, but we will all be different in some ways because of life experiences we’ve had while apart. That is to be expected. International worker or not, life presents many situations where this happens. Family members and friends grow, change, move, meet new people, and try new things. Every facet of our lives cannot be shared with every single person we love. One does not have to travel across the world or say goodbye to someone who is leaving to know this.
I think the feeling I’ve noticed with many international workers and those they say goodbye to, is grief. Grief for losing significant time with someone who hasn’t passed away. A strange feeling. Not easy to deal with. It can sometimes produce anger and sadness. It can be used as a weapon of guilt or manipulation—creating lasting damage in relationships. But if we’re willing to seek God’s truth about our grief, we can experience His sustaining power— to enjoy our lives for everything they are and trust Him with parts we feel are less than ideal.
God enables us to give grace to ourselves and others—freedom to be the people He made us. This kind of freedom and grace makes relationships deeper, more meaningful.
Dear International Worker, I care about you so I’ll be honest. None of this is easy and misunderstandings happen. You will experience grief for people, places, and things in ways you didn’t know grief could happen. There will be stress as you leave your own country and adjust to a new one.
But you will also experience joy and peace in ways you would not have known otherwise. You will see God at work in a new culture. His word will become very real. The gospel will become a reality you live, breath and walk in. Hopefully it always has been, but there is something about having the familiar stripped away— the initial discomfort gives way to an unexplainable fullness of life that stays with you even when you “go back home.”
I’ve said goodbye several times now.
It’s difficult, but life doesn’t end after goodbyes— for the people you leave behind or for yourself. God is at work in their lives and yours, so there is more to come.
(I have a friend who loves semi-colons because it reminds him there is always more to come).
God will care for the people you leave behind. It may not be easy for them, but He will give them His consistent love. He is able to provide everything they need through a relationship with Himself. It’s good for loved ones to be together, but if God calls you away and you choose to obey, know that you were never intended to become in someone’s life what only He can be.
That is true whether you live a few miles apart or half a world away. Living in guilt or worry will prevent you from being present in your own life and in significant relationships. Jesus told His followers, “I will be with you always” (Matthew 28:20). This is true for you and everyone you say goodbye to.
So consider the leaving part. Do it well. Honor those you love in the best way you can. Revel in what you love about your home country before you go.
But know there will be an arrival. You are going toward something. Give in to the anticipation and joy of your new adventure. God is present with you and He is already where you are going.
©2017 Chrissy Winslow – All Rights Reserved