Re-entry was like jumping out of a burning airplane holding (not wearing) a parachute. Don’t get me wrong…we did everything in our power to “leave well.” I promise I’m not the person Amy Young writes about in her book Looming Transitions who left sprouting potatoes behind in her bed. (true story…you should read it…Amy’s book is amazing!)
We read the book, leaned hard on friends and family and somehow managed to clean out our apartment, pack up our lives, say goodbye and cross the Pacific without forgetting a child or a passport! The burning plane in my illustration is not symbolic of not leaving well, it’s symbolic of leaving, period. Once you get to the point where you’ve signed off, handed over the keys and packed all the bags, there’s no turning back. You have to jump off the plane.
Now for the parachute. I’m not wearing it because that would paint the picture that we were super prepared for our arrival in the States. Although we had some major things worked out to soften our fall, we didn’t have all the details. Leaving China posed a bigger leap of faith than the initial going. When we signed up with an organization to move to China, we had a brochure, a mobilization counselor and a team leader. We had an idea of what our job would be and where we’d live, even though we couldn’t exactly grasp what day-to-day life would be like. The exact opposite was true when returning to our country of origin.
There was no brochure, no one calling us once a week to make sure we moved to the next step of the checklist. If there was such a person, they’d be calling and asking questions such as: Have you signed up for health insurance or something similar? Have you figured out where you’ll live after the first week of crashing at your parents’ house? Have you considered what you’ll drive (especially if you’re moving to the middle of nowhere and public transportation is not available?) and on and on the list goes! I’m sure there were lists in the literature I accumulated to accompany me on my transition journey, but after I got through the “leaving well” I was too exhausted for the “arriving well” phase. So, there I was, holding my parachute, semi-prepared for my landing and nothing left to do but go for the exit.
When I think of those next blurry months after the big jump, I’m reminded of three truths that kept me going. The first is a prayer in a song by Audrey Assad. “Deliver me from the need to be understood.” There are more than a few opportunities to be misunderstood during the re-entry process.
An example that comes to mind is the “stuff aversion” I developed during the “leaving well” part of the journey. I was aware that we’d be purging almost all our stuff in order to complete our move, but the leftover angst that lingered with me for a year or more afterward surprised me. I know it’s all just stuff, but the shedding of so much at one time was a bit traumatic. It put me into sensory overload, and returning at Christmas made it even harder because I had just physically laid hands on every single object I’d collected over 9 years and had to decide “Keep, toss or sell.”
To turn around and have so much brand-new stuff (and so much junk on top of that) immediately find its way into my life caused a strong negative reaction. I’d see items purchased from the dollar store and automatically react with “Why do people spend money on junk like this? Don’t they know people in China have to breathe horrible air because we demand their junk?” No one around me understood. I had to be okay with that. And Audrey Assad’s simple prayer helped a lot!
The second truth I clung to is God is my home. As I felt homeless during the transition between having our own place in China and then settling in our new spot in Texas (read about that here it’s one of my favorite things I’ve ever written), I struggled with feeling completely uprooted. That’s when I heard the whisper that the only home I’ll ever truly need is God himself. His very presence is my eternal dwelling place. This idea helped put everything else we faced into perspective.
Finally, the reminder that Jesus sees me and cares for me carried me through a lot of heartache that accompanied re-entry. When it got lonely and isolated, I remembered He sees me and not just me, but his vision reaches far beyond my immediate physical and emotional needs. This story of Jesus calming the storm in Mark 4:35-41 became real for me as we navigated the upheaval and a new phase of life. “Don’t you care?!” the disciples in this story hurled the accusation at their Savior.
It’s easy to ask such a question when barraged by a series of uncontrollable events, one after the other. We take our eyes off the eternal power we’re given through our Savior and instead of claiming our sonship and His care for us, we accuse Him of indifference. If you’ve found yourself in that boat with the disciples, don’t be too hard on yourself. Tell yourself He SEES and He CARES. Write it down and post it somewhere you’ll see it several times a day.
Have your experienced re-entry? What is one truth God impressed upon your heart during that life season? Do you have a mental picture (like my burning plane, holding the parachute illustration) you can share to describe your re-entry experience?
Are you preparing to return to your passport country after serving on the field? Are you in the midst of settling in to a new normal? Our Re-entry Kit is designed just for you! Click below to learn more!