Hope for the Rootless Days

Hope for the Rootless Days

My heart has always been rooted in rich Nebraska soil. As a kid, my imagination transported me around the world and back again, but my feet never wandered farther than the next state over. Rootedness was not just about place, but about being known. The very same people that rocked me when I was a baby were the ones who endured my slightly-rebellious teenage years. I did life with the same friends for the most part, because people stayed put and put up with me and knew all the ins and outs of my complicated heart.

Rootlessness was one of my biggest sorrows of overseas life. During the five years I called Cambodia home, I lived in four different houses in different towns. Some of those houses certainly felt more like home than others- particularly the ones that had hot AND running water. Those four houses also meant a lot of goodbyes. It’s the way of this life, I discover over and over again- coming and going. Hello and goodbye. Investing and letting go.

This is the opposite of my nature. I slowly go deep, devote myself for the long haul and struggle to let go. But the goodbyes keep coming, in rapid succession it seems. Even with all the changes and struggles, I felt connected to the Cambodian culture after five years. There were things I loved and things I hated, but it also was a place tattooed deeply on my heart. I knew that it was time, time to return to States for a different season but even in that peace I have felt the goodbyes deeply.

Even now I feel like a wanderer because though I’ve lived in one place for many months in a row, my heart often feels homeless, longing for the safety and comfort of being fully known. I am a returned overseas worker struggling to let that part of me mix with the Nebraska farm girl who knows how to do life in the US- most of the time. No label seems to fit, and so much about me has changed. This can be lonely and hard too.

I love that we have a God who carries our sorrows and burdens. There’s a whole book of the Bible focused on lament. And the author of these poems of mourning seems to understand the heavy days.

Lamentations 3:19-20 The thought of my suffering and homelessness is bitter beyond words. I will never forget this awful time, as I grieve over my loss.

It’s a gift, isn’t it, when it’s like someone has read your mind and spoken out loud the words swirling in your soul. “I get it!” is one of my favorite phrases. That’s what I feel like my heart is saying as I read these verses. Homelessness, yes! Grief, yes! Loss, yes! We resonate with the heartache and the costs that come with the different seasons of our lives.

Lately I’ve felt like staying there in the grief, just pulling the sheet back over my eyes and waiting for someone else to do the work, the hard work of investing in people and saying goodbye and hello again to someone new, knowing that they will leave too.

Maybe you are a wanderer and adventurer, and you are called to sit still in one place for a while. Rootlessness sounds like heaven to you, but you feel your feet sinking deep in the land where you are. Those seasons of opposites can feel like a load too heavy to carry.

I’m grateful the author of Lamentations didn’t stay stuck in the bitterness, even if perhaps he would have liked to. Still, his courage to go on can be my courage too.

Lamentations 3:21-22 Yet, I still dare to hope when I remember this: The faithful love of the Lord never ends! His mercies begin afresh each morning.

Such good news for our weary souls, friends. There is a time for grief, for sitting with our losses and not just brushing them aside. There is a time for hope, a daring and deliberate remembering of the faithfulness of the Father every day, no matter where we are. Even when it feels like the goodbyes are unending, He promises to never abandon us. There’s no end to His pursuit of us, His mercy that washes over all our imperfections and immaturity. In the days of mourning or joy, He is our constant companion.

Have you struggled to find joy in a season or living situation that is the opposite of your nature? What is your response to the rootlessness of overseas life?

Photo by Nikola Jovanovic on Unsplash

9 Comments

  1. B September 18, 2019

    Needed this article today! So many things I can scream in agreement with

  2. Linda K. Thomas September 18, 2019

    Very powerful post. I know what you feel like, and I love the optimism and comfort of your ending:

    “Lamentations 3:21-22 Yet, I still dare to hope when I remember this: The faithful love of the Lord never ends! His mercies begin afresh each morning.

    Such good news for our weary souls, friends. There is a time for grief, for sitting with our losses and not just brushing them aside. There is a time for hope, a daring and deliberate remembering of the faithfulness of the Father every day, no matter where we are. Even when it feels like the goodbyes are unending, He promises to never abandon us. There’s no end to His pursuit of us, His mercy that washes over all our imperfections and immaturity. In the days of mourning or joy, He is our constant companion.” May God bless you richly.

  3. Jenny September 19, 2019

    This hit home with me too. This was a move with much peace and provision as we watched God open door after door. Yet the grief of goodbye still lingers and the “being known” part is what I’ve struggled with the most, missing the friends and family that know my history, that I can jump in the deep end with, so to speak. I’m not as skilled in the shallow end, especially in a language I’m still learning. Oh so thankful for the raw truth and encouragement in Lamentations. Thank you for sharing from your heart!

    1. Sarah Hilkemann September 19, 2019

      Thanks, Jenny! Asking the Father to encourage your heart as you keep persevering!

  4. Emily M September 19, 2019

    This fits me totally! I’m also a rooted Midwest farm girl. Our family is back on furlough currently, and even though we plan to go back overseas, I’ve struggled greatly with all of these thoughts and the struggle of not being really known anywhere now. Thanks so much for sharing your thoughts!

    1. Sarah Hilkemann September 19, 2019

      Emily, I had a hard time on home assignment too! Lifting up your family and for eyes to see hope!

  5. Abigail Zhao September 26, 2019

    Feeling this in our temporary, stretching longer than we had planned, time in my husband’s home country (Australia). Now we’re in-between sending orgs, but starting conversations with one that has a long history, lots of experience, and lots in place for its members logistically. And while waiting for my Australia permanent residence paperwork to come through, I’m only allowed to leave the country 90 days at a time. Slowly finding some community here, thankfully. But because we’re having our house sitting adventure, it means we move areas every 3-5 weeks. The house sitting adventure is such a way of provision from Father, as we can save on Sydney’s really high rent. Currently starting our 4th house sit (through aussiehousesitting website), and planning our 5th in December when we come back from 2 months in Asia. I can find myself realizing after a week or 2, that I haven’t connected with new friends here in real life. Thank you so much for writing this! 🙂

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