I’m one year away from crying on the floor of my closet. Ok, maybe not a closet exactly. A wardrobe, built-in, with barely enough room for my winter coats let alone my sorry bum and a box of tissues. So maybe not the wardrobe, but definitely somewhere. Because this, I know, is how I cope with change.
You’re probably wondering why someone who cries in closets during life’s big transitions is mentally or spiritually fit enough to write about change. In fact, I’m wondering that myself, as my coping strategy for change is akin to the five stages of grief.
First, denial. Home assignment? What home assignment? We can put that off indefinitely, right? And even when and/or if we go, I’m sure we can keep our house/car/friends/ministry/life intact. Right? RIGHT?!
Next up: anger. Why is this a part of the deal? Uprooting our kids and our ministry just to start over again? I hate new assignments, the homelessness, the stress, the uncertainty. This is all your fault, government/husband/God!
Then, bargaining. How about we just put it off six months, a year tops. Or maybe just a nice long summer, keep the house and the car, the school and the friends. No need to actually be gone that long, right? Worst case scenario, you, dear husband, go on without us. We’ll be grand.
And depression. This is the long goodbye, the unending cycle, planting and uprooting. Oh Irish sea, poky floorboards, hydrangea plant and gorse bush. We are but weeds, to dust we shall return.
Finally, acceptance. Cue closet floor. Tears, grief, just me and my tissues.
So yes, our second term is nearing completion. Home assignment is coming, and with it a cornucopia of questions and uncertainty.
- The housing market is bursting, our landlord anxious to sell. Can we afford another place when we come back, if we come back?
- Where will we live? Wisconsin, Kansas, Chicago, in a van down by the river?
- Do we homeschool? (Please God, no.)
- Will the teenager ever forgive us? How about his teeth?
- How much support will we need to raise? Can we keep up with the cost of living?
- Don’t even get me started on healthcare, Lord!
It’s possible you’ve asked similar questions before a big change. Perhaps you’re like me, and the questions you ask betray the fact that the security you’ve counted on all this time is not the one that truly counts.
Behind my questions is the insecurity I feel in leaving the place we’ve called home for nearly five years, the only home held in the memories of our youngest child, a home we longed for since the birth of our eldest. We’ve never lived anywhere as long as we’ve lived in this Dublin semi-D, and even though I know it’s a part of the overseas ministry package, though I know God has asked me to give it up to Him over and over again, the idea of leaving even for a few months breaks my heart into pebbledash pieces.
It’s possible things could work out. Maybe our landlord doesn’t sell, maybe we can come right back to this community and school and friends and life, or maybe the housing market will crash again (see the terrible things you wish for when you place your hope in earthly things?). But I’ve been round the block (or the Atlantic) enough times to know that my best laid plans don’t always align with God’s. Which is why I go to the closet to cry, to beg, to bargain, and to hide, especially from Him.
So here’s what I’ve learned about change, if you’ll listen to the ramblings of a grown woman still in the primary education of taking up my cross and following Jesus:
It is never unexpected.
Like death and taxes, change will find us all eventually, many times over. Like Noah who was told to build a boat, or Abraham who moved an entire tribe from camp to camp, or Mary who most certainly didn’t expect she’d flee her homeland with God’s newborn child, those who fear the Lord long to hear His voice and hope to answer when He calls. Sometimes His voice says stay, but sometimes – perhaps more often than not – His voice tells us to go.
One can only plan so much.
Sure, when we joined our org., we lived years in joyful anticipation – and preparation – of our eventual departure. But plans fell through, things were put off, losses were felt. And when that blessed day finally came, I laid my head on the car window, hot tears staining my cheeks as I said what felt like a permanent goodbye to Kansas wheat and Missouri bluffs. Like graduating college or anticipating childbirth, we can think we’re ready for change, but it’ll still hurt like a boss.
It can be oh, so good.
Remember our last home assignment? The one that went on and on… two years longer than we’d hoped for? Though we had trial upon trial and landed amid no small amount of change, I live now with the memories of how fantastically blessed we were and how good God was to us. The churches, the friendships, the schools, even our not-so-pretty apartment… all were gifts we’d had no reason to expect.
Well, I say no reason, but we have one great big reason to expect good things out of change. God is in the thick of it with us. Scripture is filled with His presence among a transitory people, the Gospels alive with His human companionship, the Church empowered with the sojourning fellowship of His followers.
The last closet I cried in was the one in that dingy apartment, the same apartment we reluctantly called home for over two years. We didn’t event want it at the time, but when the plane tickets were bought and the parents arrived with boxes and brooms, I sat in that closet and grieved the home change had wrought.
And Jesus? He was right there all the time, every time: on the floor of that closet, arm around my weary shoulders, crying with me.
How surely we know that He feels our pain, even when it’s for our good.
Even when it’s for Him.
When has Jesus walked you through a time of change and uncertainty? How do you plan for the changes a life overseas brings?