A few months into our time back in the States, I chatted with an older gentleman about our move. When I told him about our son, he asked with a grin, “You got that kid Americanized yet?”
It was a joking comment, but it reminded me that so many people don’t understand what certain transitions are like. Our son, for whom America was a new, foreign country, was not Americanized yet. He probably will never feel fully American. I was tempted to be angry, but I chose to shake it off and move on.
Weeks later, I joined a party at the house of a friend from overseas. Among the partygoers were a number of people who had also spent time living in other countries. The conversations that night were peppered with comments like, “So this one time in Thailand . . .” and, “When I was flying to . . .”
These are my people, I thought.
We all need to find our people. Our people are the ones who get it. Who’ve been there. Whether it’s the experience of living cross-culturally, having been through a similar stage of life, or just knowing what it’s like to be the new kid on the block, we need to find the people who understand.
We will meet people who don’t know what we’re going through, and will struggle to give us permission to not be okay. They won’t understand why we can’t just get over it, why we can’t just set our challenges aside and move on.
But we don’t have to take that to heart. We smile, and nod, and then keep searching for the grace givers—the ones who give us the time and space to navigate the road God has led us to. Because those are also the people who will help anchor us back to God.
Our enemy will do his best to stop us. He desperately wants us to not be wholehearted, God-dependent people. He wants us to do transition in isolation, to feed us lies that we are lacking, failing, not enough, and misunderstood.
That’s not what God has for us. God sends us people to walk with us, to be rocks we can rest on, to guide us back to Him on the days when it’s just too hard. They offer us compassion, grace, a listening ear, an empathetic word. They can speak truth to us when we have forgotten it. They lend us strength to stay in the process as long as it takes for God to do His work.
Through the years, I’ve learned that whatever season God has brought us into, no matter how hard it is or what shame it raises, someone else knows what it feels like. Someone else is walking through it, or has been there too. We are not alone. Our situation is not so unique that no one else can empathize. In the same way that our interests draw us to other people and help us connect, our pain connects us with others. Transitions are meant to be shared and mutually carried. The more we receive grace from others, the more we become grace givers ourselves. When we do that, we live out and multiply God’s grace in the hardest places.
Is there a season when God brought you those safe, grace-giving people? What has that taught you about being a grace-giver yourself?
This post includes an excerpt from Making Peace with Change.