The ripping sound of packaging tape echoed throughout the emptying room as I cut off yet another sticky piece and stuck it firmly on the bottom of the newly formed box. The tape was that cheap blotchy kind found in the local stationery shop. It gave off a distinct chemical kind of odor that permanently lodged into my brain’s memory bank of smells. Handling the tape was not for the clumsy. By careful experienced maneuvers I could avoid having it stuck to unforgiving surfaces. And if I were very careful, I would make sure the new cut beginning was folded over a little to begin the next strip quickly. If I weren’t careful, the new beginning would somehow magically disappear into the roll and countless minutes would be lost in digging it out.
How many times have I done this? How many rolls of tape have I bought over the years? And what about all the precious bubble wrap I would gather and hoard from various sources, some of which had hardly any notable bubbles that folk would be tempted to pop, let alone re-use. And then there was that stash of sturdy boxes unfolded and stacked somewhat indiscreetly in back of a dresser for lack of a proper closet or basement.
Yet the sound and smell of the tape alone stirred mixed emotions as memories of past packing and moves began to flood in.
Moves— Changes—a Life of Transition
Transition from the old and familiar to the new and different.
Why did I ever think after making that first major transition from the USA to overseas that moves and changes would stop? That somehow after language study and initial cultural adaptation were over that I could somehow settle down into a job, team and home for the rest of my overseas life? And then transitions would end?
My first team leaders were not only mentors but also like father and mother figures to me. But then they were asked to move back to the home office to work. And that began decades of changes for me —in work, locations, teammates, each change demanding transition, each and every time.
I learned to listen to God and follow. Excited emotions and fear. Physically exhaustion from packing up and unpacking. Curiosity and interest in new foods and cultures. Emotional goodbyes that tore my heart out but also hellos that spoke hope of new friendships and relationships and tasks. I also learned to let go—of teammates and expats who left, of closeness and shared life with local friends, of dreams that weren’t going to happen, ….
Transitions speak of change, of growth, of never quite settling down and getting comfortable because one is wondering what is that next move and when. It’s often an unspoken part of life overseas.
Remember the Israelites when they were in the wilderness and had to follow the cloud in obedience to God? At times the cloud stopped for a day, so they settled for only a day…sometimes it was a year. They never knew how long. Always living somewhat in transitory kind of life and never quite settled. But it seems from scripture they clearly complained a lot and their hearts weren’t resting in God in the transitions, in the changes, in the unknown future.
I know I can be that way. Even today. After decades of living overseas. I am still living in transition—perhaps the second biggest in my life. I’m back in the USA again… to live. All my boxes are unpacked. Everything I own in this world is now in a rental under one roof. I threw away boxes and bubble paper. I recently bought one decent roll of packing tape just in case I would need it for something. Perhaps subconsciously I’m thinking I may need it. I feel like I’m in a transitory kind of life once again. My heart is heavy with sadness and fear and grief mingled with expectation.
I cry to God.
He said He hears.
But I don’t want the cry to be from a heart of discontent and complaint like the Israelites. I want a heart that cries to God and clings to Him as I wait and listen for His voice to lead me, knowing He is with me. He is with me today, right now… here. As He always has been in every move, change and transition.
Do certain sounds and smells trigger memories of changes, moving and/or transition eliciting strong emotions?