The time to leave China arrived. As a person of imagery, the only picture in my spirit was darkness; a girl standing on a path unlit and shadowed.
Where did the light unto my path go? Where do I go?
I thought I’d be in China for years to come, but God’s holy flame that guided my calling and life began to move. Like the Israelites who followed the cloud by day and fire by night, I, too, go where my Father leads.
His torch flamed and rose. I knew the season was upon me, but unlike other moments in which I knew where he was leading, I was shrouded in the unknown. My dream had been serving in China. But life’s seasons bring unplanned changes and we began to see God guiding us as if using a trail of breadcrumbs, laying down provision after provision to lead us toward America; a place more foreign to me than China had ever been. Mid-air on the plane, God gave me Psalm 138:8: “The Lord will fulfill his purpose for me; your steadfast love, O Lord, endures forever. Do not forsake the work of your hands.”
Losing a dream to death is painful; trusting there is life after death is petrifying.
As a family, we gave ourselves a year to transition. I remember sighing in wait for a year of rest after spending the previous years on the brink of burnout over our ministry responsibilities.
However, as we landed on American soil, the darkness further encroached around my soul. Rather than rest, my days filled with anxiety, feelings of displacement, insecurity, grief and loss of identity. Daily I cried out, “God, where are you?” I knew he’d led us to return, but I struggled to understand what I was returning to.
Why was I struggling so desperately while my family easily slid into the new lifestyle? I faced the truth while reading in Isaiah 43:18-19:
Forget the former things;
do not dwell on the past.
See, I am doing a new thing!
Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?
I am making a way in the wilderness
and streams in the wasteland.
I found these words making my path clear for the first time. I’d been clinging to China as my identity, purpose and fulfillment, yet God clearly moved me from that place. I was not the place, nor was it all that God had for my life. In order to rise anew I had to let my former dreams die; they could not be my identity. Sadly, that realization was only the first baby step in my reorientation.
The coveted year of rest looked more like a train wreck of emotional suffering, wondering who I would become. In America, I found the first question people asked was, “what do you do?” as if that defined me. My humble reply of homeschooling mom and wife sent people running from me, enlarging my circle of loneliness and growing fear of living a purposeless life. I decided to live out Psalm 130, crying out as the Psalmist did and claiming the promise that God is with me and hears my sorrows. I allowed my soul to wait in the Lord.
If I learned anything in China it was that most things don’t happen when and how you want them to and long-suffering is part of daily life. The year needed to be a season to still and quiet my soul. God allowed me a season of tear-stained self-discovery by opening my eyes to my truest identity—Him. It wasn’t in a job people expected me to have or where I had been or done. In stillness and loneliness of loss, God refashioned my vision to see my calling properly.
Transition is an upheaval of events. Our emotions are like glitter in a snow globe, swirling around us, lingering over us, all the while taking their sweet time to settle. We struggle to make sense of the many memories, feelings and new encounters toward our reorientation.
This past year of leaving China to start a new life has been like repotting a plant. Disorienting to be ripped out of my comfortable pot, then rattled by the jostling about, only to be smashed into a new pot which is uncomfortable in order to wait around until I fit in that new place. Yet, we are assured by God’s word that what He starts He will finish. He will light our path in due time.
Ending the year of rest, I’d wrestled, wept, struggled, longed for the past and let it go so that I could rise anew into this season that God has also called me. Dreams come and go, we move and transition, but God remains steadfast.
We follow, He leads.
We find ourselves in Him, we are His and He is ours.
Our calling is to trust Him and remember: He makes all things new.
Are there any areas of your life that you find yourself clinging to that God is asking you to let die or move away from in order to follow his leading in your life? Is there an area in your life that God is wanting to do something new?