October marks three months back in Canada and the first time I’ve experienced fall in about five years! The sky is grey all the time and the weather has morphed from a pleasant coolness to having the brittle edge of winter. Experiencing the transition from summer to fall has accompanied thoughts I’ve had lately about my time back in Canada and as I’m getting ready to head back to Thailand.
The first thought – The past two years have been HARD. And it won’t get any easier.
The second thought – These difficulties are a requirement, refractionist the cost if you will, mind if I believe what I’m doing is in line with what God is doing in the world because of His love for the world.
The frustrations, intensity of loneliness, wondering my relevance professionally and in lives of friends, family and continued mishaps & misunderstandings of cross-cultural work – none of this is a walk in the park and has required constant and continual adjustment to new norms (which include having huge ant eggs in my room up north). Each return to Canada gets harder and harder because my opinions no longer fit with what is acceptable in Canada as a result of my continued reaction/struggle/acceptance (whether partial or full) of what is normal in Thailand.
This doesn’t get any easier because I choose to remain in a vocation that requires commitment to choices and resulting consequences I’d rather not have and results in a necessary exclusion from things I’d embraced as “normal” before. Cases in point – It’s tiring to train my co-workers in Thai on basic concepts of project management that high schoolers in Canada understand and when I have time to connect with good friends/family, our exchanges are often challenged by physical distance, time differences and my current exhaustion and I’m often hurt by their lack of interest in my work.
Or, Questioning the relevance of what I do when I come back to Canada and my friends are warmly ensconced in homes of their choosing, with partners, children and income streams, but I’m raising money to go back overseas and have much less control over things like housing and transportation. Don’t get me wrong – I have many privileges in life and am in no way suffering like many others. But take my cases and multiply it over and over again in the almost six years I’ve lived outside of Canada. Believe me, I’ve questioned the sanity of what I’ve committed to.
This brings me to my second point – exhaustion and questions of relevance, among other things I’d rather not struggle with, are requirements if I believe my role of being “the hands and feet of Jesus”. At the most basic, accepting these discomforts have led to a better understanding of my co-workers’ struggles and that of their communities (not enough food to eat, no dignity in the work they do, discrimination by Thais, etc.). I’ve also begun experiencing Jesus as my comfort (vs. only my comforter), something I’m not sure would be possible for me living in Canada. Along the way, though, I’m beginning to grasp at the edges of something bigger, beyond my comprehension. That this is for the benefit of my soul because it’s within the will of God. Whom I choose to believe in.
Here’s the long stretch forward. Sheldon Vanauken, in his deeply moving book “A Severe Mercy”, describes this better when he reflects on the death of his beloved Davy with whom he had a beautiful love story. That God required him to experience two separations from his wife (the physical one of death, and then the “second death” of no longer sensing her presence) so that Sheldon’s heart could be truly full of God’s ravishing love for him – the severe mercy.
So. I continue grasping at things not yet understood but with this certainty: that working out my faith and my vocation requires a constant belief in things I don’t yet understand.