Twelve years ago, I wrote an article for Women of the Harvest about transition. At the time,I was one year into our first overseas assignment. I look back now and I smile, thinking, “What did I know about transition then?” But I am encouraged by what God taught me in such a short time.
Since then, we have added to our family, made several moves between and within countries, and changed job focuses a number of times. Now, we’re about to make the transition back to the United States. With each turn, God has taught me more.
So once again I find myself looking back at the lessons God led me through during these times. I hope they will carry me through what feels like our toughest transition yet. And chances are good there are more lessons to learn. When has God ever passed up an opportunity to teach me something?
What have I learned? I have learned that there is only one role that defines me, and that is “child of God.” Anything else can be taken from me. Wife, mother, expat, sister, friend, minister of the Gospel—any of these could be gone tomorrow. It is a great gift to be given any of these roles. I want to do them wholeheartedly and faithfully, but I cannot allow my value to come from them.
Aside from that unchangeable role, the only other constant in my life is God Himself. In each transition I have seen more of His character, and am learning to depend on it. He is tender when I am devastated by changes. He rejoices in giving us new blessings. He is faithful to provide. He is my Guide in new circumstances. My friends, my co-workers, the people I interact with daily, they may all come and go, but my God is present, faithful, and unchanging.
I am learning when I keep these constants as my anchor, I can keep my heart open. I remember a fellow co-worker who moved in next door to me with her two kids. Though she only lived in our community for a year, she lived it to the fullest. She embraced the opportunities, exposing her family to more culture in that one year than I think I’d really pursued in the previous four years. She reminded me of the Jim Elliot quote: Wherever you are, be all there. Live to the hilt every situation you believe to be the will of God. It’s tempting to pull back into our shells, to hole up and do what we know feels comfortable, but there’s not much life there. I’ve learned that, as much as I can, I want to be wholeheartedly engaged in whatever situation God puts me in.
This goes not only for experiences, but even more so for relationships. We never experienced the revolving door of expatriate life like we did in Singapore. It became so constant that at one point when I introduced my son to a new child and he said to me, “Well, how long is he going to be here?”
At just five years-old, my son had begun to make choices about where he was going to invest his heart. I’ve felt the same way! Recently, a new family moved into town. Knowing we were leaving soon, I was tempted not to pursue her. In the end, I felt it was worth it and it was; she is one of my closest friends. Choosing to pursue her is something I’ve never regretted though I know it means one more difficult goodbye in the end.
It’s painful, this open-heart thing. C.S. Lewis said, “Love anything, and your heart will certainly be wrung and possibly broken.” But what is the other option? To hide our hearts away means we will miss out on joy as well as pain. I can’t measure how painful some of these transitions have been, how many tears I’ve cried. But it has also brought richness to my life and relationships I wouldn’t have known possible. And in the midst of it, clinging to who I am in Him and who He is, has become my shelter and my strength, allowing me greater freedom to love and live with abandon.
So as I look at this next move, I want to remember these things. I hope to see more of Him in it. I hope to look back and see that I have loved well in this chapter of my journey. I hope I will have embraced what He has given me – the trials and the blessings. And I hope I will have moved with an open heart through this next transition, my toughest one yet.
© 2012 Women of the Harvest.