When I moved to Paris from Indiana, I could not have been more caught off-guard by what my life became. While I was confident of the choice I was making, and had walked forward in it (mostly) in confidence, I found myself in the most humbling season of my life. It is simply impossible to understand to someone who has not experienced it the helplessness of not knowing how to buy the food you want (that’s the stuff you actually have seen before), not knowing what side of the escalator to stand on, and not even knowing how to navigate human traffic in a crowd.
As someone who deeply values their sense of self and independence, moving abroad brought me not just a season of adjustment, but a season of humility that I have never known. I questioned everything. Every cultural norm in my world, things I fit into or believed without thinking, was challenged. But perhaps the thing that rocked my world the most was that this shift brought with it a season of deconstruction in my faith as well.
The thing is, when you move overseas, almost everything in your world is held up against a bright light, examined, and then either retained or discarded. This was understandable when it came to some of the surface-level political stances I had or the dynamics of family. But before I knew it, many of the constructs of my faith were being held up and closely examined, and not all of them were making the cut.
I faced a choice very early on in my time as a global worker, which was to choose whether to allow this deconstruction to take its course, or choose to avoid and fight it. After a season of intense wrestling, I had to allow myself to enter into a wilderness rather than continue to fight against where the Spirit was leading me.
After all, if you remember, it was the Spirit that led Christ into the wilderness. His human body stretched to capacity in hunger and thirst, He was led into a wilderness. And I don’t know about you, but my Bible reads that he was led – not dragged.
I suppose that we have made the wilderness seemingly a place of punishment or condemnation. We have made that season of deconstruction one of finality – as if entering the wilderness means we must continue walking through the desert, never to return home. As if we will be left there to die. As if we are now removed from the presence of God.
Even as my faith entered a wilderness season, I had a choice—I could choose to follow the Spirit and engage with where this process was taking me, or ignore it altogether. So into the wilderness I went. And in that wilderness so much of me was stripped away that I feared there would be nothing left. But what was stripped away was that which the Spirit had to remove to change me—my independence, my self-sufficiency, my comfort. And yes, my pride.
The Bible talks about pride so much that it’s uncomfortable. (For me, anyway.) I hate when the Bible talks about pride, because pride is one of those things that sneaks into my heart before I even realize it’s there. Pride is a barrier to the work of the Spirit in my life, because it causes me to resist the wilderness. It causes me to fight rather than follow. It motivates me to preserve my image above all else, and to avoid at any cost the chance I will look stupid.
For those of us who are workers overseas, I believe that we can’t be effective without a season in the wilderness. And the wilderness can’t change us but that we walk in humility. Over and over throughout scripture we are told that God lifts up the humble – that He sustains and satisfies them. The only way out is through – and the only way to safely come out of deconstruction is to give ourselves to it – to allow the Spirit to do in us what it will.
Nothing has changed me like living abroad. Nothing has strengthened and deepened my faith like having to rely on the Spirit to sustain me. Did I have to engage in the process? No. Did I always want to? Definitely not. Has it been worth it? A thousand times, yes.
What is the Spirit trying to deconstruct in your life? What wilderness have you walked through in your time overseas? How has the Spirit taught you humility in your role?
This is The Grove and we want to hear from you! You can link up your blog post, or share your practices, ponderings, wisdom, questions, ideas, and creative expressions with us in the comments below.
Share your images on this week’s theme with #VelvetAshesHumility. You can add yours!