Learning to Land

Learning to Land

From the balcony window I can look out over the city and see the airport, usually marked by the coming and going of planes, in the distance. Often, I have stood and watched, bare toes on cold tiles, tea steaming in my hands, and watched as a plane makes a slow, wide circle, once, twice, and again. A holding pattern. The plane makes gigantic loops across the sky as it waits for the way to be cleared and permission to land. 

I can relate. I returned to my passport country two years ago and have been aching to be back in the field on foreign soil since the moment I arrived. A myriad of good things and challenging things have kept me from going again, yet I can’t quite settle. I’m in a holding pattern. A pause in the journey. Circling the destination, but never quite able to land. 

And then this year, the whole world has joined me in it. A collective pause from ‘normality’ and an endless circling around of plans and goals which never quite come to fruition. The ever-changing and oft contradictory information and situation mean that I feel far from settled or slowed down. I know that many feel the same way. This season could have, should have, been a time of slower pace and investing in relationships and in God but, instead, we’re battling to balance the things that vie for our attention and prioritise the most important, and we’re making our slow and restless loops as we wait to land. 

Praise God that he is steadfast and unchanging though I and all the world are not! As I’ve spent time in his word recently, I’ve noticed the way that he calls people to be present where they are. Most clearly this stood out to me in Jeremiah 29. The vast majority of the Israelite people have been carried away to exile in Babylon under King Nebuchadnezzer and they know, through the prophet Jeremiah, that this exile will last for seventy years. False prophets are insisting that it won’t last that long and Jeremiah confronts them repeatedly. Can you imagine? Seventy years in the holding pattern, an enforced pause in plans and purposes, restless and unsettled, longing to land, longing for home. Their experience and ours are very different, but I can imagine many of the emotions were the same. 

Fear. Confusion. Frustration. 

Perhaps they were tempted to stay unsettled in this time, but God calls them to something else. He tells them to settle. To build houses and grow gardens, to have families, to prosper, and to seek the prosperity of the city they are in (Jer. 29:5-6). God doesn’t tell them to stop longing for Israel, but he does call them to commit to where they are and to pour out their lives in obedience to him right there in a hostile and foreign land. 

This in itself is stunning, but there’s more. God promises the people that after the seventy years, he will gather them from the nations and bring them home, and they will be his people and he will be their God. The exile is a consequence of their sin and rebellion, but God will use it to bring about something beautiful and wonderful to behold. I recommend reading Ezra and Nehemiah to see how the people turned back to God. There are moments there that I can’t read without tears in my eyes as I am reminded that our God is an awesome and holy God, worthy of all praise and honour and glory. 

We are not the Israelites in exile. But I am learning that God is saying the same thing to me. “Enough with the holding pattern and the restlessness. Long for other things, yes. Pray for a vaccine, for safety and clarity. Pray for those who are sick and for those who are suffering and grieving. Pray for change. But rest in the knowledge that I know you. I know your heart and I love you. And be where you are. In this season, this pause, follow Me.”

I’m a slow learner, but he is gentle and kind and we’re getting there. I’m learning what it looks like for me to land in this season, not where I want to be, but where I am, and to be present and faithful in it. I’m learning that obedience to God is a joyful thing and that there are unexpected and unlooked for treasures even in the hardness of the pause. I wonder if you are discovering the same thing.

What is God saying to you in this season? How are you learning to be present in it?

Photo by Simone Baldo on Unsplash

11 Comments

  1. Cassandra August 11, 2020

    Thank you for this! I just landed in my passport country after 3 years working and learning to love another country, and all I want to do is turn around and go back! Trying to let myself be open to this time and what God has to grow in me through it. God has brought to my focus several relationships that I now have the space to pour into, so I will try to be focused on “growing my gardens” while I wait for direction. Thanks for sharing your season!

    1. Rachel Mutesi August 11, 2020

      I’m so glad this was helpful to you in this season Cassandra! I can relate to the struggle of transitioning back. It’s hard, but God is so, so good. And following him is worth it all

  2. Emily Jackson August 11, 2020

    Thanks for these good thoughts on focusing on the present, even if it’s not where we’d be or what we thought we’d be doing.

    1. Rachel Mutesi August 11, 2020

      Thanks Emily! They’re thoughts I keep needing to remind myself of

  3. Christina August 12, 2020

    Thank you so much for sharing this. It was exactly what I needed. Unlike many others, we have stayed in our place of service, so life has continued more or less as normal. I frequently struggle with loneliness and miss my friends back home, and look forward to the day when we can go back to our passport country. In the last few days God has been showing me that I need to plug in and make this place home (even though we’ve lived here for nearly 6 years I haven’t embraced life like I should.) Your encouragement to build, settle, prosper, etc in the place God has us in is exactly what I need. Thank you for sharing and confirming the things God has been teaching me.

    1. Rachel Mutesi August 13, 2020

      What a privilege and joy it is to share the things that God is teaching me and to see how He is teaching many of us the same thing! I can relate to the longing for passport country when I was overseas. I’m just always longing for something! At the end of the day, I just am looking forward to heaven

  4. Rachel August 12, 2020

    Oh my goodness I So needed to read this! I’ve been back from the field for a year and a half and it has been a holding pattern, a time of walking through the desert, lots of moving and transitions, I still do not feel “home” or settled and all I want to do is go back! This is a good reminder for me. Thank you for sharing your heart and journey!

    1. Rachel Mutesi August 13, 2020

      I can so relate. Praise God that He is with us and before us in the journey!

  5. Barbara August 12, 2020

    So good and so true! I’ve been home from the field for two years but I was supposed to leave for a different country in June. Of course that didn’t happen and I’ve been restless, not knowing in what direction to move in. Too much down time. God has been encouraging me to settle down and just do what He puts in front of me. It’s such a journey and I have to remember it’s a process. His plans are good, even if I don’t understand them. Thank you.

    1. Rachel Mutesi August 13, 2020

      It’s such a battle when it feels like our plans are pulled out from under our feet like that. Oh I feel for you! I’m constantly thankful that in God we have a sure and certain hope and that we can trust Him always. He is good, always

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