When we woke up that morning, we had no idea that we would be making the decision to leave. We were a day away from moving down the street to a new house that wouldn’t flood during rainy season. I had yet to pack any boxes and found myself frozen in decision making. My husband sat next to me on the couch, listing the things that we needed to buy in order to move in.
“Ok, so I can go and buy us some beds once I know how much you want to spend and what you want.”
“Danielle. We have a lot to do, so I’d like to get going on this.”
I didn’t know how to respond. Actually, I knew how I wanted to respond, but it was so life changing and so radical, that I didn’t trust my response. You see, we were long-term people. We were in this for the long haul and there had never been much of a question about it. I had struggled for the last five years with our life in Cambodia, but I knew this was our calling, and I waited out the doubts and depression. There was no question that we were staying.
Upon our return from an eight-month furlough, we had made the decision to settle better—buy things for our house that were beautiful and well built. We purchased some beautiful furniture. I went to IKEA in Thailand and bought curtains and pillows and decorations. This was going to be our home and we wanted to invest in it. I felt that once my home felt beautiful and homey, that I would feel better. That I would feel at home.
But it hadn’t helped. A settled home did not make my heart settled at all. There was much deeper stuff happening that needed to be addressed, and it wouldn’t go away by ignoring it. As Vandenn asked me about things for our new house, I felt trapped. There was no way out—buying more things meant more things to stick us here. I didn’t want that. I wanted out. I saw no way out, though. I knew Vandenn would never make the decision to leave, and I had never wanted to be the one that said we should.
With Vandenn looking at me, I started crying. I spilled all these thoughts onto a stunned husband who was trying to come to grips with a wife who was spiraling downward. It was such a helpless feeling, wrought with guilt. Guilt that I was so weak. Guilt that my husband had been trying all these things to make life more livable in Cambodia. Guilt that after five years, I was still struggling so hard, that my dark days were becoming more frequent.
I looked at Vandenn and said, “If I were a regular teammate, just a regular teacher, what would you tell me? Rip away the country director’s wife hat–what would you say?”
“I would tell you to go home.”
We sat there under the weight of those words. Go home. What did that mean?
It meant having to find a new leader for our team. It meant telling teammates that we were done—teammates who had been with us through so much and expected us to stay. It meant telling close friends that we wouldn’t be walking this path with them overseas. It meant stunning everyone around us. It meant not seeing full fruition of all the relationships we had spent a decade building. It meant walking away into complete unknowns in the States. It meant turning our lives upside down.
We went to bed that night different people. Instead of making more plans to settle, we were making plans to leave. My husband asked if I felt like a weight had been lifted off of me, and I had to admit that it hadn’t. In some ways it was like a freight train had been barreling down at me, and instead of being crushed, I was now hanging on for dear life on the side of the train.
For some people, the decision to leave may be easy and laid out. I suspect that for many of us, though, it’s not so clear. For those of us whose lives have invested so much into this calling, it’s hard to picture life outside of it. It’s hard when our next steps aren’t clearly marked. The act of leaving takes as much faith as it did to come overseas and the decision can be laden with heaviness and doubt.
Even in the preparation to leave in the following months, we struggled with doubt. Great things were happening around us—why would we leave?
Only the insight of almost a year back in the States, has helped us to see why we needed to leave. There were things that we needed to work on individually and as a couple that the work in Cambodia had not made possible. Do we still hope to be back in Asia someday? Absolutely! But we are so thankful that even when it seemed like we couldn’t make the decision to leave, that God knew what we needed. And the decision to leave was the most God-honoring thing we could have done.
Where in your story have you needed more faith to leave or stay than you needed at the beginning of this adventure?