I foolishly made a statement sometime in late December or early January that I couldn’t live in this country without my community here. Now, this idea just sounds silly. Of course, I could live here without this particular group of people. Of course, I can do hard things. But in that moment of pressure, I really felt like I couldn’t make it without my people. In our city, expats (short for “expatriates” which just means people who live in a foreign country) are pretty familiar with one another, but within the expat community is the subculture of the homeschool community. We are always cooperating together, our kids are playing sports together, and they’re learning together. We spend a large chunk of our time with this fantastic group of people.
But then, almost ALL of our people exited our country for a vacation. This happens yearly, and this year was no different. Except that it was. They didn’t come back. In fact, they stayed where they were for the next eight weeks while we were here in our host country, not leaving our homes except for groceries. We were under daily policy changes as this country tried to stop COVID-19. And now, almost all of them are in the US. There are a few sprinkled in other countries waiting this thing out, but we don’t know when they’ll be allowed to return. And I’m here, eating crow. I quickly learned that I can, indeed, live without them; I just never wanted to. And who can blame me?
And it was about 3-4 weeks into COVID-19 when I remembered those carelessly spoken words. “I could NEVER…” And there I was, living without my community. God, in His grace, provided us with one other dearly loved foreign family in our apartment complex who became our battle buddies in the trenches. I believe this experience has bonded us in a way that others could not. We have shared meals together and hunkered down together. Our kids have made movies together, we’ve roasted marshmallows on the roof together, and we’ve shared our fears, disappointments, and daily victories. But we collectively grieved the uncertainty of our community returning.
Maybe you find yourself in a similar thinking space–“I could never ________________________.” Maybe the blank was filled with “homeschool,” “work from home,” or “stay home.” And now you’re doing it. I think we’re often very closed-minded to what we can actually handle. No one wants to handle tragedy, being distant from those you love, changing your routine, trying scary, new things, or pretty much doing anything that requires bravery or effort.
For myself, it’s the state of being comfortable that I didn’t want to give up. I’ve been battling this, because I don’t want it to be true of me. I don’t want to be addicted to comfort. But I totally am. I suspect some of you are too. I have often said to myself, “Why does this have to be so hard?” Maybe in my comfort, I should ask instead, “Why is this so easy?” I am all too aware of the relative ease of my life compared to those of my fellow humans living in poverty, escaping war-torn nations, or suffering abuse.
I’ve been bowing down to the god of Ease. Challenging things make you grow, and in my immaturity, I’d rather coast along like Peter Pan in Never Never Land and shirk the hard for empty pleasure. But in my heart of hearts, that’s not what I really want. I really don’t want to stay the same. I want to change. I want to be more mature. I want to honor God by putting Him and others ahead of myself. I want to think of myself less. I want my life to bless others, and for that, there is a transformation that has to take place.
Paul calls it “sanctification.” It’s a word that basically means that you’re being changed into the likeness of Jesus through a process of refinement. This refinement often happens when pressure is applied. I don’t know about you, but COVID-19 has carried a lot of pressure. So many weaknesses in me have been revealed in this fire. I see hidden fears coming to light, a desire to control outcomes, a desire to know how everything will turn out, and a desire to not have to change to accommodate others. But this sanctification is for our good, and it produces what we’re actually longing for, which is growth.
Bob Goff, writer, lawyer, and bringer of joy posted this statement on Instagram the other day:
“Wanting to have all of the answers now isn’t bad, it just isn’t faith. Do what you can. Be courageous. Stay the course.”Bob Goff
“It’s just not faith.” Well said, Bob! And that’s where the rubber meets the road–“for the just shall live by faith.” (Romans 1:17b, NKJV) Paul says in Galatians 2:20, “I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me.” (NASB) I live by faith everyday that Jesus died for me, that His work on the cross was to cancel my debt of sin, to renew and transform me to His image, so that the new creation is restored. And this is how I’m able to accept hard things, to change, to move forward with uncertainties–I know a new creation is certain.
What does this look like practically?
- When uncertainty scares you, take a deep breath and look at what’s certain–God, your transformation, and the new creation.
- When difficult circumstances loom, turn your attention to Jesus and actively trust Him to help you through it. He promised never to leave you or forsake you.
- Do the next right thing–you don’t have to know all of the steps ahead, just take the next one. (For more on this, please go binge listen to The Next Right Thing podcast with Emily P. Freeman)
“For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus.”Philippians 1:6 (NASB)