Sitting on a rooftop feeling weary under the burdens of the mission field, the luster having worn off our jet-setting lifestyle, they warned us. “Soon you will wish you had one more day of this life.” I denied it silently while sweat soaked my shirt and the pollution left a film on my skin. Not even halfway through and already I longed for the end, for my own bed, for my family, for the ability to make any decision for myself. Every dream of home was dreamed in rose-colored glasses.
Gathered together on one of our last days, surrounded by warm, salty air and palm trees and clear Caribbean water, they warned us. “Re-entry will not be easy.” Still I refused to agree. What a privilege it was to be living in such a beautiful place with beautiful people. But the gratitude was stolen from me by homesickness. I counted down the months, then the days, then the hours. I took every opportunity not to see what was in front of me. “Nothing will satisfy like home,” I thought.
But along with the ability to drink tap water, the re-learning of how to drive a car, the time spent cuddling with my dog – along with all the things I’d daydreamed about – came the unexpected and the unprepared for.
It began with the language. I could understand what everyone around me was saying at all times. I could overhear any part of any conversation I eavesdropped on. My victims were unaware of my intrusion and unaware of my unrest. The same mouth that would bless one person would immediately curse another. I’d never been so aware of how poorly we speak of each other before I went without hearing it in my language for a year. For lack of a language barrier, I was left stunned and questioning who I could trust.
Then loneliness settled in. I used to break the rules. I’d set off on my own early in the morning in the heart of a foreign city. I’d sit in a coffee shop by myself. I’d relish every minute of my stolen, priceless alone time. But home brought an overabundance. After crawling into bed at night, I’d count how many people I’d spoken to face-to-face that day – on one hand. I’d look around my bedroom and nobody else was there sleeping beside me. This strangeness would leave me sleepless. How could I end my day without first fellowshipping, praying together, knowing and being known?
Add to this the complete inability to articulate what happened to me in the last year. If only each person I spoke with told me what they wanted to hear, I could answer them. I wish I knew how to put into words an entire year of my life in a manner which would please any audience. But everyone is looking for something different and something specific, and I am continually inadequate to provide it to them. As it turns out, stories that brought me to tears make everyone laugh, stories that make me laugh just confuse people, and stories that astound me bore my listeners. So there exists an entire year of my life, a tremendously influential and life-altering year, which nobody around me knows anything about. And I am at fault because I can’t make words make sentences anymore.
Tonight in my unrest, God spoke to me, “You can’t avoid processing forever. And you can’t make it happen any faster.” So here are these thoughts. I am forcing the groaning to become words. I’m sure it will be messy. I’m sure personal failures will far outweigh wisdom and entertainment value. But if you’d like to hear and you have no expectations, here are these thoughts.
Some days are easy, and some days are hard. But God is worth praising all the way through both.