There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens:
Jesus, as I leave China, I thank you for this chapter of my life.
a time to be born and a time to die,
Gifts and talents I never realized I had were born, but I have also been forced to die to myself, my "rights," and my desire for the comforts of home.
a time to plant and a time to uproot,
By your grace, many seeds of Truth have been planted and many of my assumptions and presuppositions have been uprooted.
a time to kill and a time to heal,
You have had to kill the sin of cynicism, prejudice, pride, grumbling, and gossip in me and you have brought healing to many of my broken places.
a time to tear down and a time to build,
At times I have felt like a failure. I have started work and had to tear it down again. I feel like I have wasted time and money in the process. But other times, I have had the chance to see projects succeed and flourish.
a time to weep and a time to laugh,
I have cried for reasons I could not always explain and laughed at myself and the bizarre aspects of the culture I have lived in. This laughter has been a healing balm on days when I have just wanted to weep.
a time to mourn and a time to dance,
I have mourned what I have missed back home: new babies born, being in friend's weddings, funerals, family holidays, and watching my nieces and nephews grow up. But I have rejoiced over reaching personal goals in language, understanding the culture and seeing Christ change lives. I have danced with joy in these moments.
a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,
I have had to let go of dreams by moving abroad. When I first came, it was the hope of a spouse and children and the longer I stayed, I knew I would also be letting go of the possibility of a successful career back home. But certain dreams were not meant to remain scattered and God has shown me which ones He wants me to pick back up again.
a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing,
Relationships have surprised me since I moved across the world as I have kept in touch with some and not with others. God has begun to take away my guilt for not keeping in touch with every friend I ever had and reminded me that sometimes friends are for a season--and that is okay.
a time to search and a time to give up,
I was searching for a spouse, and it is when I finally gave up that I found him. I was also searching for significance and have been constantly reminded my life is in Christ.
a time to keep and a time to throw away,
I have kept many gifts and treasures I have collected over these years abroad, but as I try to move into and actually thrive in my new home, this has meant throwing away anything that is keeping me tied to my past in unhealthy ways.
a time to tear and a time to mend,
I have had to tear away my fears, doubts and insecurities in order to minister here. I have needed you to mend my shattered heart, sewing it back together and making it stronger than it was before.
a time to be silent and a time to speak,
My time abroad is constantly on my mind, but I need your help in discerning when people really want to know and when it may be better to keep silent. You have also taught me that hearing comes from listening and listening comes in silence.
a time to love and a time to hate,
I have loved hard. It has been a tough love in this place that was so much like an arranged marriage to an incompatible partner at times, but in the end I loved much of what I hated at first. Now, I mainly hate that I have to leave.
a time for war and a time for peace.
I have done battle in this place--with my sin, through conflict with others, in my mind as I've tried so hard to adjust and assimilate, and emotionally as I've wrestled with issues of injustice, materialism, poverty and suffering that I never had to consider before. But you have given me moments of sweet peace that remind me that this world is not my home.
What do workers gain from their toil?
I have seen the burden God has laid on the human race.
He has made everything beautiful in its time.
He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end...
I know that everything God does will endure forever; nothing can be added to it and nothing taken from it.
God does it so that people will fear him.
Lord, thank you for the opportunity to serve you abroad. Now help me to serve you back home with the same love, intensity and awareness of You.
Ecclesiastes 3: 1- 11, 14 (in bold)
New International Version (NIV)
If you are leaving soon, try out this exercise and write a prayer for each of the segments of this Scripture passage, praising God for what He has done in your life during your time abroad.
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This post is day 28 of the series "Re-entry: Reflections on Reverse Culture Shock," a challenge I have taken to write for 31 days. Check out my other posts in the series:
Day 1: Introduction
Day 2: Grieving
Day 3: No One Is Special
Day 4: Wasted Gifts
Day 5: I Never Expected...
Day 6: Identity: Through the Looking Glass
Day 7: Did I mishear God?
Day 8: When You Feel Like Shutting Down
Day 9: Caring for your Dorothy
Day 10: You're Not the Only One Who's Changed
Day 11: 12 Race Day Lessons for Serving Overseas
Day 12: Confessions of an Experience Junkie
Day 13: Longing for Home
Day 14: Readjusting: Same Tools, Different Work Space
Day 15: Book Review: The Art of Coming Home
Day 16: The Story of My "Call"
Day 17: Is Missions a "Higher Calling"?
Day 18: And Then I Fell in Love
Day 19: Is God Calling You Overseas?
Day 20: Life Is Not Seasonal
Day 21: What I Took and What I Left Behind
Day 22: Groundless, Weightless, Homeless
Day 23: When the Nations Come to You
Day 24: The Call to Displacement
Day 25: Scripture Anchors for Re-Entry
Day 26: In the Place of Your Exile
Day 27: Resources for Re-entry
Day 28: A Time for Everything: A Prayer of Leaving
Day 29: Journal: 8 Months After Re-Entry
Day 30: 12 Survival Tips for Re-Entry
Day 31: A Blessing
(Day 32: Writing is Narcissistic (And Four Other Reasons Not to Write)--a reflection on this Write 31 Days experience)
Photo: Juan R. Lascorz [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0) or GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html)], via Wikimedia Commons
Labels: 31 days (2015), living cross-culturally, Missions, my story, re-entry, Spiritual Lessons