Photo by Ellyn
A while ago I transitioned out of a ministry role and country that I had come to love dearly and into a new role in a new country. While I had new and exciting opportunities to look forward to, I found myself struggling to let go of the familiar – there was something about the security of knowing my place, my role, and my purpose within a familiar team, culture and responsibilities that was incredibly hard to release. For months I felt excited about the upcoming changes and adventures, but also wrestled with anxiety about the unknown. During that time God has shown (and continues to show) me a few things that I would like to share with you in regards to 'leaving well.'
Very rarely do we get to see the fruits of our labour come to fruition, but that doesn't mean that what we're doing isn't important. The entire time I wrote stories, reports and updates for a country in South Asia, I saw very little of how it impacted others; but from the last group that joined the team in September, two of them said they had joined after reading a story I'd written! It was such a blessing to see a very tangible result of the work I'd done and helped me to trust that there were others impacted that I'll never know about. It was a good reminder that God uses people for His glory because He chooses to, not because He needs to.
Sometimes hard things are good for us. Life in South Asia can be hard, there's no doubt about it. Having limited amounts of water, electricity, heat, internet access and sometimes a lack of safety, comfort or available resources is trying, but it has also shown me how faithfully God provides. Often He does this in unexpected ways - or ways other than how I imagined/would have preferred it. None of these inconveniences are easy, but I learnt that having a good attitude and praising God for what I do have, instead of complaining about the lack, can change my outlook on the situation. Oftentimes I’ve seen God speak to me or direct me through these challenges, and have grown closer to Him through the experience.
I expected myself to handle this transition like it was nothing...but that hasn't been the case – and that’s okay. I have felt as nervous and anxious about this move as if it was my first one. Questions like: what do I pack? Who will I hang out with after I move? What if I don't make friends? and many others plagued me at various times. But through the ups and downs of these emotions I've also experienced a peace that the move was the right step and have known that no matter what comes, God will be there. The panic or anxiety that arises in me is a legitimate part of the transition process, but so is choosing to believe that what God gives is bigger than any challenge ahead, and He is on my side.
"We don't always get what we want, but God gives us what we need." This was a quote an intern said when he was preparing to return home at the end of this summer. I wrote it down and have continued to think about the statement. I can think of lots of prayers I have prayed and not seen/heard an answer from God yet; and maybe especially as I struggled with health issues, loneliness, or stress and didn't see a direct answer to my prayers, I have felt frustration and anger. But looking back I can see that though there were unanswered prayers, there has also been a growth in my understanding that God is my provider; that He is sufficient; that He is good. And as I've grown in my understanding of these characteristics in Him, I've come to see that what and how He DOESN'T provide is just as important as what and how He DOES.
It’s okay that transitions are hard. It means that we have invested much, cared deeply and shared ourselves with others. Separations after doing that are painful and yet we have the promise that Jesus too is familiar with separation and the pain that accompanies it. God’s ultimate plan for us is to never experience a goodbye again, but until then, we must remember that this earth is not our true home. As we transition out of a familiar job, home, or even a country, there will be sorrow at the losses experienced; but amidst those feelings we can remember that the loss means that we have made meaningful connections. And when we have transitioned into a new environment, we can look forward to establishing more roots there.
While I’m still in the middle of this transition, I have already seen how God has answered some of my prayers for community, smooth adjustment and more varied food options. Leaving possessions, familiar places, good friends and the comfort of the known behind may never be easy, but it can most certainly be good: because our God is good and knows our needs and provides for us. When we learn to trust Him more and more, and allow the stress and anxiety of a move to pale in comparison to His promises, then transitions can become a much more enjoyable experience.