I never wanted this overseas life.
My only exposure to cross-cultural work came every 3rd Wednesday night at a small group meeting at church. I remember reading in amazement of the sojourns of Christ followers who were bold enough to step into all that was unknown. Their faith and courage was so great that it almost seemed fictional to my teenage self. I admired them for their service to the Kingdom, but never would I have ever wanted to leave the comforts of home.
What I wanted was to marry a God-fearing husband by the time I was 25, have at least two kids by the time I was 30, a successful career, a nice roof over my head, and, of course, a little dog too. I wanted my children to grow up close to their cousins, just like I did. I wanted them to be active in the local youth group and in school sports, just like I was. I wanted them to know the freedom of four-wheeler rides among tall trees, camping trips at state parks, and the fun of big family gatherings, whether it was the holidays or not.
Funny thing, though, I can look back through the pages of these two decades into this overseas life and see that the Lord has provided me with a God-fearing preacher-man of a husband. He has given us two beautiful teenaged children who are involved in both ministry and in school sports. He’s allowed me a career, has given us a nice roof over our heads, and, yes, there’s the little dog too.
But can I just be candid with you, sisters, at the risk of sounding like I’m throwing a temper tantrum? It’s just not in the place I thought it would be. Now, please, don’t get me wrong. There is not a day that goes by that I am not thankful for all that the Lord has provided here and for how He has allowed me to grow in Him as a result of being here. He has been good and continues to be good. But there is also not a day that goes by that a part of me doesn’t still yearn for the connection and experiences that come with the small-town culture of my childhood home. The friction between gratitude and grievance is real.
Mind you, my children have grown up here on the island. This is all they know. My husband is from here. This is all he knows. But growing up in that sleepy, rural river town, I know differently – and the knowing hounds me relentlessly. It reminds me of all that I believe they have missed and are missing. The knowing is even riddled with guilt because our times with family there are so few and far between. The knowing has a way of unsettling me. It exposes the most undignified of attitudes, the occasional unmerited feelings of bitterness, and the often unwanted angst of grief.
Certainly, those who live it know that a life overseas calls you to a life of constant surrender. So why, after 20 years, can’t I let go of this?
Then I read it in black and white:
“Sometimes to get your life back, you have to face the death of what you thought your life would look like.”
I soberly repeated – you HAVE to face the death of what you THOUGHT your life would look like.
Of what YOU THOUGHT your life would look like.
“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the LORD.”
~ Isaiah 55:8
I know this. I know that His ways are not my ways and His thoughts are not my thoughts and, trust me my friends, that’s a very good thing. However, knowing it hasn’t made the surrendering of this one area of my heart plans any easier. After 20 years, I am embarrassed to say that I still struggle.
“To pray, ‘Thy will be done,’ I must be willing, if the answer requires it, that my will be undone.”
I must be willing that MY will be undone. Not His.
I must be willing to let go, if the answer requires it, of even this desire.
Because let’s just be honest. The inertia of living a life overseas will inevitably require some sort of surrendering that is as hard as it is holy. It will constantly ask of you to yield your focus upward rather than on the lateral view of your current circumstances. It will put you at the wheel of the Potter over and over and over again. And just as sure as you walk in obedience in the steps that the Lord has established for your life, you will begin to see that what you didn’t want or plan for in your heart was the very thing you needed to become more like Him.
No doubt, I am a work in progress. But I pray that one day I won’t just be singing this age-old hymn with lips that mean well. Rather, I will be singing it from a heart fully submitted to His will.
“All the Thee my blessed Savior, I surrender all.”
Sisters, can I pray for you? In what area are you struggling to let go in your call to this overseas life?