Change: A Distraction or a Tool?

I am currently looking out the window in my childhood home. The last time I truly lived here was almost thirteen years ago and I was just starting high school. At that point I had never lived overseas and this home was the only one I could remember. Countless moves and multiple countries later, I’m back where I started except everything is different. I have come back to a place that is simultaneously familiar and foreign. I have come back empty and tired and broken and at the same time full and strong and resilient.

I have changed. I am at a season of life where transitions are coming at me faster than I can process them. I have days where I wake up unsure of what country or continent I am on. I continue to be amazed at how much I understand of the conversations going on around me until I realize they are speaking English. After three years without a car, I’m remembering it is important to make a mental note of where I parked.

Sometimes I look at the change and get overwhelmed. I start to panic. My heart will race and I wonder how much more I will be able to handle. I look at the change and my reaction is fear. I am afraid who I am will get lost in the transition. I’m afraid who I am has already been lost. I’m afraid I will never be able to find myself again. I am afraid and the fear threatens to consume me.

Here I had to close my computer and walk away. I had to practice breathing, get some space, and ask God to show me the deeper truth. Here is the question rolling around in my mind. Am I allowing the change to draw me closer to Christ? Or am I using the external changes as a distraction from the real change He wants to bring about in my heart?

If my answer is the latter, the change will simultaneously be too much and not enough. It will be more change than I could bear and not enough change to keep down all the junk I need to deal with in my own heart. Change as a distraction can work for a time, but it is exhausting. It doesn’t last forever. Eventually things will come out in a messy, ugly explosion.

If I am allowing the change to draw me into deeper communion with Christ, it will be neither too much nor too little. The external changes will serve to bring about transformation in my heart. Change becomes a tool instead of a distraction. It becomes a necessary part of my development. There may will be times where it feels like I am picking up pieces after an explosion, but Christ will be next to me putting the pieces back together in a way that more closely resembles him. This path is sustainable as long as I remain connected to Him who sustains.

My response does not fall perfectly on one side of this question or the other.  There are days where change becomes a distraction. I also have days where I am moving toward Christ. It is messy and imperfect. I need to be constantly adjusting. There will be many days where my focus is misplaced. This doesn’t mean I have failed. I only need to stop and turn my focus back where it belongs.

Change may never get easier. I’m not sure I want it to get easier. What I pray instead is for an increased capacity to allow the change to help me resemble our perfect and unchanging God.

Where are you facing changes in your life? How can you see those changes as a way to draw you closer to Christ? What helps you keep your focus on Him rather than on the changes?


  1. Amy Young May 18, 2016

    Emily, I love this redemption of change . . . a tool, not a distraction. Yes, it can be if I will lean into the discomfort and pain and submit to the process. (here I am now #PreachingToMyOwnHeart) 🙂

    1. Emily Smith May 19, 2016

      Preaching it to my own heart as well. It is a lot easier to write about it than actually to practice.

  2. T May 19, 2016

    “amazed at how much I understand of the conversations around me til I realize they are in English!!”–me too!  in the grocery store, the post office, I guess still feeling inside that I’m foreign made this happen, usually the first weeks I’m back “home”.

    1. Emily Smith May 19, 2016

      Yes. I may have sat at a coffee shop and listened to all the conversations going on around me just because I could. That is starting to wear off, but the idea of feeling foreign inside may never totally go away.

      1. Monica F May 19, 2016

        I’ve ‘been back’ in the States for two years now (wow, has it been that long?) and I still kind of weird out when I get that ache for my Asia home in my heart- I’ll be standing in a coffee shop, at church or a store, and all of the sudden I feel very out of place.  It’s amazing how living in another country for so long (9 years for us in Asia) can really change you from the inside out.  My kids and I were talking about that today actually, and we all enjoyed swapping stories about missing our Asia home and how thankful we are for that season in our lives.

        1. Emily Smith May 19, 2016

          It has been four years since I lived in Romania. There are still times where I long for that home. Certain sounds or smells or foods will trigger something that just transports me back. Each season has been special. That ache is real. I don’t know about you, but I wouldn’t trade it. The memories are worth the ache.

  3. Janis McArthur May 19, 2016

    Emily, I totally resonate with you. I served in Asia for three years and I have been back in my home country for almost three years. I served in China for two years and absolutely loved it and then moved to Laos. Little did I know that transitioning from one country to another would cause such turmoil and hardship for me. The change was too drastic for my mind and my body to handle. I started to break down while in Laos and ended up not returning to Laos that fall. Coming back to my home country was also was very hard but God knew I needed this time to work on many areas of my life I had to not addressed earlier in my life. I am learning that though change is hard, it really is a time to dig deeper into what God is teaching me. If I had returned to Laos that next year, I would have missed out on my daughter’s wedding and my grandson. What a wonderful gift I have gained. I am still adjusting to life here but God is showing me how I need to trust Him more and to relax in His presence.

    1. Emily Smith May 19, 2016

      The more I have talked about my transition I have come to realize I am not alone. Change is hard, but there is so much to be gained. I’m so glad you could have such tangible blessings like getting to participate in your daughter’s wedding. Thank you for letting us know part of your story.

  4. Ellie May 28, 2016

    I love this line Emily: “I have come back empty and tired and broken and at the same time full and strong and resilient.” it’s so hard to explain that to someone who hasn’t been through it. I am bigger and stronger than I was, and more me somehow,  – the challenges of overseas living with God’s shaping hand in the circumstances and pains  have somehow boiled me down to a stronger essence, and yet I’m also weaker and more confused and lost in some (rather significant) ways that will last for a longer or shorter time through the transition.. Gah! Currently wishing it was easier! 😉 But at least lovely folks on here get it!

    1. Emily Smith May 28, 2016

      I hated having people tell me I was strong. I felt anything but strong. At some point something clicked. I realized it didn’t have to be an either/or. It could be a both/and. Recognizing others could be right about what they saw in me AND I could still need to heal and rest…a huge relief.

      Isn’t it wonderful to have a community where others get it? It helps so much to know you aren’t alone. Praying it does get easier for you soon. Hugs to you as you transition.

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