At the beginning of the year, I left the home I had built in Korea. I left my closest friends, my job, my routines, and all the futures I had envisioned for myself on that peninsula, and I returned to the States. I was excited, but I was also heartbroken.
In one hand, I held hopeful excitement about my new beginning; but in the other, my whole world seemed to be slipping away like sand through my fingers.
That is what big life transition is: Risk, hope, and loss.
There is an inevitable moment of weightlessness when you have released what is known and have yet to take hold of the new. It’s a scary moment. But sometimes choosing what is scariest can bring the greatest reward.
Can. It’s not a guarantee. That’s why it’s called a risk. That’s why it’s so scary. And that’s why landing on your feet is so thrilling.
It’s like jumping off a cliff into a body of water that seems too far down––there is palpable fear, an anxious beating in your chest; then some pain, possibly a stinging slap on your legs or the burn of water up your nostrils; then the thrill.
Relief. Confidence. Euphoria. Pride swelling in your chest simply at having survived.
It’s been 8 months, and I finally feel settled into a new normal. Suburbia. Family. Driving a car. Sticking my credit card into the reader instead of handing it to the cashier. I’ve re-acclimated, made it through reverse culture shock. I’ve stopped bowing at everyone (for the most part), and I’ve learned to talk louder and look strangers in the eye.
Most importantly, I find that my mind and heart have calmed. I have healed.
The truth is, I wasn’t just heartbroken about leaving Korea because of my love for that nation, but I was also heartbroken by devastating things that I experienced at my church community there. (Perhaps sometime I’ll share more about that, but not yet.) There were seven years to process, seven years-worth of confusion to untangle.
I knew I needed space and distance in order to see it all clearly, but examining the dysfunction of what I experienced wasn’t fun. Neither was analyzing the cynicism, over-sensitivity, and confusion I saw in myself. Honestly, there were many days when I didn’t know what to do to help myself. I just wanted to get past this, to go back to being “normal”! But I couldn’t.
It took awhile to accept that I wasn’t meant to return to a former self––to my more innocent, more oblivious, and more hopeful self. I was meant to change from this. I was meant to find a new normal.
It Takes Time
I haven’t had many commitments these past 8 months. I’ve been free to do a lot of resting. And for that I am extremely grateful. My original plan was to jump straight into another move and a new grad program. I was desperate to move forward with my life. But God knew better. He told me to slow down.
Now I see that God knew what He was talking about.
It took weeks of attending church services anonymously for me to feel comfortable again in that space. It took weeks and months of reading books, journaling, praying, crying, and engaging in long, painful conversations for me to process what had happened. There were no pithy answers. There were no short cuts. It was a step-by-step, every day journey. I’m still on it, but looking back, I can see that significant ground has been covered.
Instead of having a knee-jerk negative reaction to pastors, authority figures, or anyone else who tries to tell me what to do, I am better able to listen, to pause, to perhaps even trust and respect. Hope is alive and well in me. It is not as innocent of a hope as before. It’s less naive. But it is stronger, wider, and deeper than before.
That is what going through the process does: it changes you. It is tempting to numb oneself, to run away, to disengage. (And there are moments when it’s okay to disengage a bit.) But the way forward is THROUGH.
If you are wondering where God is right now,
if you are going through a difficult season, feeling beat up or confused, my prayer is that God would give you the strength to make it through. To lift up the next prayer. To have that next conversation. To take that risky, uncomfortable next step. And when you can’t, I pray that God would carry you as He has carried me.
The truth is, God is here. God never left. No matter bad it gets, God doesn’t leave. I don’t have all the answers, but I do know that. So don’t give up. Don’t surrender to the darkness. Ask for help. Ask God the hard questions. Give yourself space to rest. And remember, it takes time.