Five months. How have we been back in Idaho and away from Burundi for five months already? Time has flown by. It has been such a blessing to be back here with family and friends (and amazing food and hot showers!). Even now when I walk into grocery stores I wander around for over an hour just amazed and thankful for all that we have. Up until recently, I never went through a super challenged “re-entry” process where I longed to be back in Africa and felt uncomfortable here. Moving back was an exhilarating rush of joy and adrenaline and newness, but in the most familiar way.
I have an awesome job working at a cafe/bookstore. We are living with Ladd’s parents, which has been such a huge blessing. Ladd is going to school, and recently made the dean’s list due to his academic success. People have been so amazing and relationships here are rich and wonderful. We have all that we need and more!
Yet, despite how incredible it is, it is not what I expected. Don’t get me wrong, I love this place. If the city of Coeur d’ Alene hired me to get people to move here, I am confident that I would be the best in the business. While away in Burundi I talked about my home town all the time, loving to brag about the culture, the beauty, and the relationships that exist here. When we decided a year ago to move back here for Ladd to go to school, my heart fluttered with anticipation of being home.
The first three months home were awesome. But around month four, a strange feeling began to set in. The original excitement of being home was over, and although not gone, it was met alongside with a feeling of displacement.
What am I doing here?
Where do I fit?
How do I get involved?
Do I root in and establish a home here?
What is my purpose?
I liken it almost to an identity crisis. It isn’t an unfamiliar feeling because that is exactly how I felt the first year living in Burundi. God walked me through a year of just waiting on him. No direction or action, just waiting. During that waiting process I learned a lot about God’s heart, as I have shared before. He taught me how it is not about what I do for him, but just about my relationship with him that matters. It was a hard season, but I learned so much. But then year two came and God let me teach a Bible class to secondary students! I finally had found something that made me love to live Burundi rather than just exist there. Because of those lessons God taught me the year before, I knew my relationship with God didn’t depend on what I was doing for him, so I was free to fail or succeed in this new position. I really believe that God used it in all of it’s imperfections.
When we left Burundi, I had decided to not commit to leading any sort of ministry or plug myself in too deeply into anything for three months. I wanted to give myself time to adjust and re-learn who I am in this culture. I thought for sure that at the end of three months, God would reveal something glorious, some job or purpose in the church that I would feel fulfilled doing. But three months came and went and still nothing.
This is when displacement set in. I know that my purpose is to love Jesus and give him glory. I know that my identity is his beloved daughter. I know that I fit in by his side and that he is my only true home. I know all these things. Yet, there is a longing in my heart that I almost can’t identify. A good friend of mine gave me a great analogy of a tree. She mentioned how in the summer seasons it grows and you can see the fruit. It is lush and perfect. In the autumn, it seems to be dying, but with a few seeded fruit still left. And then for many months, the longest of all, it looks completely dead. But during the time that it appears to be dead, that is the time when it is growing its roots the deepest so when the summer heat comes and the rains of spring, it doesn’t wash away or fall over. If this is true, then this season is definitely winter.
Sometimes I hear people refer to themselves being “in a desert” spiritually, which generally means that they don’t have a lot of motivation to pray or read or aren’t hearing from God in any dramatic way. They also refer to the opposite of this state to be “on a mountaintop” or “in the promised land.” However, I don’t find this to be true. When the Israelites left Egypt, they were lead through a desert. During that time God was so tangible and direct. He lead them with a pillar of fire and cloud, he spoke in a booming voice directly to their leader, and fed them literally out of his hand from heaven. When they got to the promised land, it was not like that. They didn’t need God like they needed him in the desert. There was food and water and shelter there. And although God was still meeting their needs, it became indirect. Technically, the promised land is where they heard from God the least.
I wonder if the Israelites felt displaced in the promised land. Then again, they felt displaced in the desert as well…And they felt displaced in Egypt, too. I very much can understand this. They pretty much always felt displaced. Even when they were finally in the promised land, they struggled to stay true to what God had said. Once God has taken us out of what we know (Egypt), and leads us through the unknown (desert), somehow when we get to the place that seems like it should be home (promised land?), we still don’t feel settled. I thought that in coming home I would immediately settle right back down in the ministry I did before, surround myself with the same people, live in the same house, and have the same goals, even the same personality.
But everything has changed. I have changed. And I have come to the conclusion that America is not the promised land like I thought. Neither is Africa. Instead, I feel in some strange way like I have come back to Egypt. Not in the slavery kind of way, but in the way that the Israelites would have felt if they had gone back to what they knew before instead of onward to the promised land. It is comfortable in it’s familiarity, and there is definitely much to be done here. It is far from pointless. Yet, I sense that it is impermanent. For years now I have just wanted permanence, the ability to just root down and be in one place and call it home.
I have finally surrendered that idea. We are not in the promised land, not here or Burundi or whatever country God moves us to next (which I know, undoubtedly, he will do). We are not home. We are exactly where God wants us to be for right now. Yesterday that was Burundi; Today that is Coeur d’ Alene; Tomorrow it will be somewhere else. But instead of searching for home, I am praying that God gives me the ability to rejoice in the fact that my home is in Him.
I am displaced, and I don’t know how to be here. I struggle deeply some days with what I am supposed to be doing here. Many days I am confused about my purpose and God has been relatively silent and distant. But even within that displacement, whether that is in Egypt, the desert or the mountaintop, He is my only promised land, and I find my place in Him.
* that God would continually speak to us regarding direction
* that we would be useful here with non-critical hearts
* that we would be able to root down and plug in here, even if it is for a short time
* for Ladd to get into the right university next semester and to finish NIC well this semester