A little more than four months ago we boarded our last flight out of Managua as residents. We were supposedly “coming home” even though we had come to call home someplace totally different.
At first, all I could think was how much transitions suck. But this is where I’m from, so why is it so hard? Well, our time abroad changed us. So nothing “back home” looks—or feels—exactly the same.
In a New York Times article discussing the difficulties of trying to repatriate back into the U.S., a therapist described it like this, “Nobody gets it. It’s like having somebody dying and there’s no funeral and you’re not supposed to talk about it. You feel guilty talking about it.”
A few weeks ago, my husband and I met with some administrators at our daughter’s school. Forty-five minutes in, we realized we’d spent the whole time talking about the stresses of the past few months (and years) and little time talking about the reason we were there. My husband politely apologized for us turning the meeting into a therapy session. I sat there counting up the number of similar “meetings” I’d had since moving back.
Thankfully, a new mantra emerged—it sucks a little less each week—and the uncomfortable conversations started to happen a little less frequently.
For the first few weeks, my scripture reading felt forced and meaningless. In fact, I’m not sure I even comprehending much beyond the basic story lines (sometimes I didn’t even follow those). So I switched to listening to the Bible on my phone, either while painting the house or driving the kids around. Some days I still felt nothing.
But, with time, I found myself drawing great strength from one particular verse.
Rest. Oh how I have come to covet that concept! Because these seasons of transition can bring some unexpected emotions.
When we initially realized God was likely bringing us back to the States, I fought it pretty hard (ironically, with about the same amount of gusto I previously fought moving abroad… some people never learn!). To help get used to the idea, my husband had me find houses on Zillow and visualize where we might live next. I kept picturing myself looking out a kitchen window, seeing nothing but lush grass and trees. (This was the opposite of the concrete block wall and razor wire I saw from my kitchen sink in Managua.)
The house we ended up buying did, indeed, have mostly green in my dish-washing view, but there was something else: a chain-link fence. From the moment we moved in, I asked my husband when
we he could remove it. Then, one bright Saturday morning, that finally fence came down. And as I gazed into the fence-free yard for the first time, it was as if this huge weight—one that, if I’m honest, I wasn’t even completely aware of until it was gone—was lifted from my shoulders. That fence had been the source of a needling, of sorts, in which I felt my breathing restricted a tiny bit every time I saw it.
The very opposite of rest.
Living in a country where your passport, native language, and bank account make you instant targets for thieves affects you more deeply than you realize. When the majority of your friends have been robbed, at least half by gunpoint, being surrounded by walls, gates, and armed guards is normal. So you acclimate. And yet, as normal as it is, living like that is never comfortable.
Moving back to a place where we look and sound just like everyone else means we blend in (even if we feel so out of place). We’re no longer targets. We can relax. Eventually (I think). Removing the fence was, for me, like taking away a daily visual reminder of that uncomfortable normal we left behind.
This caught me off guard, because I didn’t even want to leave Nicaragua!
But coming home is a transition, and all transitions have some level of loss. No matter now much you embraced and even loved your life abroad, this coming “home” can leave you with a case of post-traumatic-stress-syndrome. Because sometimes the most beautiful things are born out of pain…
And that means there’s healing to be done, and rest to be had.
The rest God is offering in Matthew 11:28 is not just a day (or week or month or year) off, but rather a deep refreshment of the soul to equip us for the following season.
Rest. Reflection. Refreshment. Regrouping. Renewal. It’s all a part of the healing God provides when he moves us somewhere new (physically or emotionally). It probably won’t be quick, or particularly comfortable, but it does come, because he promises it. And when we grab a hold of that perfect peace and rest soundly in his divine direction, we will be healed in such a way as to be sufficiently equipped for whatever and wherever God calls us to next.
Father, thank you for this rest. Thank you that your plans for me are infinitely better than anything I could plan. Just, thank you. Amen.