When Rhinos Have Been Let Loose

I recently pulled out the two magazines stored in my cupboard and began clipping out pictures, anything that caught my eye, things that seemed to represent my current life in some form. My usual way of processing is through words. I place my swirling thoughts and emotions into prayers and stories in a journal.  Usually, words help me make sense of where I am at and where I am going. But recently, they just won’t capture what I need to express. I can’t find the time or space or energy most days to write out what is going on in my soul. So, one day, I remembered this collage exercise from a couple of retreats I’d been on previously. Maybe this was a different way to help my heart unwind.

I cut out enormous mountains, stunning but formidable. Then, I added a fireman with a forest fire behind him putting out the little fires around him, a thunderstorm, rhinos trampling a field. As I sat, snipping, gluing, deciding where each piece should go, I began to recognize just a little bit of where I was. Yes…it did feel like rhinos were stomping all over my life as it had been. Yes, it seemed that storms and fires were constantly screaming for attention, and that the path ahead was leading upward on an impossible pass.     

As a thirty-five-year-old marrying into another culture, I didn’t make those vows at the beginning of this year with complete naiveté. I knew the adjustment would be rough. I attempted to anticipate all the potential problems before we got there—too much.  Before our marriage, my husband-to-be was much more focused on the present and solving what was right in front of us. I realized that was a good steadying force for me. Jesus said to not worry about tomorrow, and He was right. Most troubles cannot be fully anticipated anyway.

Neither of us expected that my husband would lose the seemingly promising job he had just started, and not be able to find another. Neither of us thought it possible that his exams, delayed the year before due to Covid, would be postponed again—and again—making his education come to a standstill, too. 

I thought I could go back to work and at least have one part of my life be constant. But no, classes remained online, and I found myself at home far more than not, and going slightly crazy sometimes.  

I knew that marriage would be an adjustment after years of being independent…but I didn’t know all of the issues it would bring up in my own heart.  

I knew the first trimester of a pregnancy would be rough, but I didn’t know it would leave me barely able to get dishes done or even take the trash out.  Forget about cooking. It has been a hit to this girl’s budgeting, environmentally-friendly ego to find myself ordering take-away just to keep my husband from starving, and running the air-conditioning on over-time just because my exhausted, nauseated body has no tolerance for the heat this year.  

The piles of paperwork for visas and spouse cards have not been surprising, but are overwhelming nevertheless. There’s no end in sight, and no clarity about which place we should or even can end up living.  

For the first time in about twelve years, I find myself longing to live in my home country. It comes as a shock because I have wanted to be here for so long. I wonder if God is changing my heart because of the plans He has for our future, or if it is merely a symptom of my discomfort and discontent. I don’t know yet. I just know that I am here, and I somehow need to find His joy in the midst of heat, sickness, loneliness, paperwork, and uncertainty.  

I arrive at this summer with my emotions in shreds. I’ve not had time to deeply process my move from last year, a change of organizations, the friendships I’ve lost, losing most of what previously constituted my support system. I haven’t really had time to come to terms with what calling and ministry looks like in this new setting—new neighborhood, new marriage, and new connections I can’t yet be sure will take root.  

The collage is a start in processing the last season.  It gives me a way to see where I am.  It helps me remember there is a path on that mountain even though it is a daunting one.  

Even in the pictures I have chosen, there is life and beauty. I know there are seeds planted under this soil. I want them to burst to life NOW. I keep staring at them, certain they must be dead by now. But, He reminds me to wait.  

A deep longing stirs in my heart for Jesus. I weep whenever I hear songs that speak of His return. I long for a deeper sense of His presence. I long for Him to set everything right. This is the beauty in the midst of the rhinos wreaking havoc. That havoc might not go away for some time, but His invitation for me is here in this place, in this time to lean on Him and Him alone, to seek Him above all the answers that I am waiting for.  

How is Jesus calling you to wait on Him in this season of your life?  How are you processing the events—good and hard—that have happened in the last months or years of your life? 

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  1. Ruth Potinu July 27, 2021

    Related to this so much thank you! My husband is also so much better at taking problems one day at a time than I am and with a new baby and two young kiddos we’ve been doing take out more then usual these days which makes me feel at times like I should be able to handle more, but I’m just not in this stage of little sleep. Thank you for your wisdom and honesty.

    1. RLS July 29, 2021

      Praying strength for you in these days! I am trying to anticipate that the post-birth stage may also bring me back to this place of not being able to keep up with everything. Sometimes it is good to be reminded that we can’t, and aren’t expected to do it all!

  2. CK July 28, 2021

    I feel like this post is my journal stating back at me. I also have gone through so much transition, married cross culturally , and got pregnant shortly after, then the pandemic hit. It’s encouraging to know I’m not alone in this. While the questions can be daunting trusting Him with each step takes the pressure off of “me”…and puts the focus back on Him. Thank you for this revealing and encouraging post.

    1. RLS July 29, 2021

      It encourages me to know that I’m not alone too! it’s so easy to get distracted by all that’s going on. it’s hard but good to learn how to trust the Lord in new ways. Thanks for sharing!

  3. Ellie July 31, 2021

    Thank you for your honesty RLS! This has been an unprecedented year (and other words we’re tired of hearing to describe it!) and now that I have been back in my passport country for a number of years I can see more clearly just how much those of us on the field are carrying and you have a lot of burdens at the moment. The first year of marriage and the new place/culture is a lot. The first trimester of pregnancy, and especially if it makes you feel really poorly, is a lot. There are a lot of losses there too.
    “I’ve not had time to deeply process my move from last year, a change of organizations, the friendships I’ve lost, losing most of what previously constituted my support system. I haven’t really had time to come to terms with what calling and ministry looks like in this new setting—new neighborhood, new marriage, and new connections I can’t yet be sure will take root.” This is so good – you are right about just how much processing that is, and it takes different stages. I think one of the hardest things – both abroad and “back home”, at lots of different stages for me has been that reality of “new connections I can’t yet be sure will take root”. Thanks for naming that.
    Blessings to you in this time of transition upon transition. Blessings on your collages and processing. (I need to try the collage thing again – has been super powerful when I’ve done it – reveals things I didn’t know I felt – and I’m someone who usually loves words and journalling too ;))
    Love the phrase “when Rhinos have been let loose”! So apt! Glad you and others and I have the VA community to help us process and not be alone. Hugs to you my friend.

  4. Sarah Hilkemann August 4, 2021

    So much to process in here! Thank you for sharing your heart and also how the Father spoke to you. I have done a similar prayer exercise, cutting out pictures from magazines. I was skeptical at first but as I listened to the Father and reflected with him, there were themes that came out of it and it ended up being so very encouraging!

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