“Oh, hey! You’re a Hibma, aren’t you? Nice to see you again!” These were the words that welcomed me as I walked into our small public library in northwest Iowa. During the next 15 minutes, I would encounter three different teachers from my past. “You were in…wait, don’t tell me…somewhere in Asia, right?”
Last May, my family moved back to the States after a decade of serving across Asia, but mostly Cambodia. We settled into my parents’ basement with our three little ones, and the last few months have been spent trying to find equilibrium from all of this upheaval. You know how when you first move overseas and you feel like you’re walking on Jell-O? Everything is a bit unstable and shaky as you find your footing? Moving back is the same experience. It’s strange to be in a place that I have known since my childhood, surrounded by people who knew me as a little girl–but they can’t really connect with or understand the woman I have become.
Coming back to the States, my identity has been rocked. I was the woman who had given up everything to serve in a developing country. I met my husband overseas and my children called it home. And here I am, back in the States, feeling like I have lost my sense of purpose. My identity has been so wrapped up in what we did and where we lived. How can people truly know me if they don’t know how much the last ten years has truly changed me? How can they know me if they’ve never let the spices of Khmer cuisine sit on their tongue or sat in the deluge of tuk-tuks, motos and cars on a busy Cambodian road? Can they know how it felt to sweat through most of my days and wait for the cool breezes and rains of rainy season? Can they sense my deep desire for community here, things that go beyond the surface?
My legs feel wobbly. My heart aches many times for our community back in Asia.
In David Benner’s book The Gift of Being Yourself, he writes, “An identity grounded in God would mean that when we think of who we are, the first thing that would come to mind is our status as someone who is deeply loved by God.”
Not in our location. Not in our relationship status. Not in our position.
Our desire to be known by the people around us is not wrong. We long for connections. But what happens when you move? Or your friends move? Or you have a major change in your job? If your identity is wrapped up in those things, you will be left floundering and unhappy.
We need to move into a deeper knowing of Christ. His identity was defined by his relationship to his Father. Everything flowed through the deep knowing of his Father. Do you think Jesus’ identity was rocked when people didn’t know him completely? No. He knew that his Father loved him so intimately that nothing else mattered.
As our family re-learns how to walk here in the States, we feel God calling us to a deeper intimacy with Him. We truly long to be known in this new community, but everything needs to be born out of an identity completely founded in His love. At times, we feel stripped bare, but God, the ultimate “Knower”, is with us, and in this major season of change, that’s good to remember.
What’s your soul’s response to being found in His love?
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