Grace in the Transition: Wisdom for Returning Home Part 2

WRITTEN BY SUSAN MCCRARY

Drawing from her years of experience, Susan McCrary speaks to the hearts of returning sent ones- identifying with them, encouraging them inwardly, and admonishing them onwardly. If you recently returned to your home country, or are planning to return someday, may these insights soften your landing.

If you missed Part 1 of this post last month, give it a read!

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It's okay to not be okay

There can be so much pressure to be okay. This pressure can be both internal and external. We polish ourselves so that all looks wonderful when maybe it isn'€™t. It’s actually ok to say, "This is hard for me. I am struggling." There were several times that Moses doubted what he was called to do. In Exodus 2:11 Moses confessed before God, "Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the children of Israel out of Egypt?" He was honest before the Lord with his doubts and questions. God reassured him and provided just what he needed for each challenge along the way, reminding Moses, "I will be with you." (v. 12)

Moses stepped out in faith that God would provide just as He said He would. And He did. Can we stop the weary task of polishing the surface of self and get honest before the Lord? There, you will be reassured that He hears you and is faithful to see you through it all. There, you will be wrapped up in the free and full acceptance of God, which can release you to be you, to be ok or not ok. Then you can be honest with those around you. Don'€™t let pride keep you from showing your true self. There is much we learn from one another by being authentic and vulnerable with how we feel. 

Give yourself time

Is there a sense that life is a race and you have to be first out of the gate? Maybe that’s why a topic like your first thirty days back is compelling to you. As soon as you hit the ground, you are running. Of course, certain tasks do have to be tackled soon after arrival. However, it doesn'€™t all have to be accomplished immediately. Find a healthy pace. Balance work, rest, and play. No doubt, you would like to be fully adjusted and completely settled ASAP. But the key to 'as soon as possible' is the word 'possible.' What is a reasonable season for adjusting well and getting settled? Think back, how long did it take to adjust to your overseas culture? Breathe, give yourself the time and grace needed to transition well. Be content with what is possible within the parameters set before you.

Seek to be positive

Probably one of the hardest dilemmas in coming back to your home culture is the feelings of negativity and cynicism that might rise up. It may surprise you. People are probably telling you things like, "Welcome home!" and "I’m sure it’s great to be back!"and "I'm so glad you aren't over there anymore!" and “I hope you had a nice trip!” and “Good luck with getting a real job!” You may feel like 'over there' was home and being here is not where you want to be. On the flip side, you may have a hidden relief to be back in our home culture, but are feeling shame because people expected you or sent you out to be "over there." These can cause a great deal of conflicting emotions. The lenses of your life can suddenly be focused only on what you desire for yourself or what others desire for you. Perhaps you need to turn your vision upward and seek what God desires for you instead. He desires for us is to seek Him and follow after Him. This allows us to trust Him for what lies ahead. When we see how blessed we are in the gospel and how good God is to give us grace so freely, then our attitude will more easily turn toward positivity. Psalm 34:8-10 commands this very truth:

Oh, taste and see that the LORD is good! Blessed is the man who takes refuge in Him! Oh, fear the LORD, you His saints, for those who fear him have no lack! The young lions suffer want and hunger; but those who seek the LORD lack no good thing.

What I 'did' versus what I 'do'

It is likely that your big move also involves a career change of some sort. We all tend to find our deepest identity in what we do, especially for men. Though the work of our hands is a blessing, it can also be a curse. Genesis 3:18-19 teaches us that work in itself can be broken and troublesome, but it is most problematic for Christians when work becomes what defines us. How much more sad we become, then, when we’re no longer able to that work. Are you grieving the loss of what you did? To a certain extent you
should. But if the grief is debilitating, you may want to search your heart. Where is your identity found? Do you feel you are no longer a complete person because you’re no longer “over there”? Do you believe the pain will only resolve when you find a new, equally fulfilling task? These are traps of the enemy. Yet they are also invitations from God. He wants to renew you in the truth that your greatest accomplishment has already been achieved—the work of Christ freely imputed to you. He wants to reinvigorate your labor with the knowledge that your peace with Him already flows from who you are, not what you do. Your identity is rock solid in Christ, and that will carry you into the next task He has for you.

He has it all.

As we entered back into life in the states, we were faced with the task of buying a home. I know this is a very normal occurrence for most people, but for me it was actually a quite daunting task. It had been 20 years since we owned a home. Instead, we’d been moving from apartment to apartment overseas. There were so many choices to make. We also entered a very tricky time to buy. It was a “seller’s market” with not much to choose from. There were vastly more buyers than sellers. Finally, we found a home and made an offer. People were offering more than asking price—so we did too, although not much. Some people were even willing and able to pay cash. It was a Friday morning. The seller’s realtor said he wasn’t going to consider any offers until Sunday at noon. So we waited. 

I decided Sunday morning I would fast and pray. It was such a sweet time of fellowship with the Lord. I had deep peace about the house situation. I didn’t know how the realtor was going to handle all the offers, nor how fair it would be. He ended up postponing until 4:30 p.m to notify us. This was outside the agreement and made us wonder about his forthrightness. But the Lord had given me an unexpected yet perfect verse that morning in my time with Him. God led me to turn to Proverbs 16:11, which says, “Honest balances and scales are the LORD’s; all the weights in the bag are His concern.” Wow. It struck me that no matter what dealings may be happening, the Lord has it all! I love that “all the weights in the bag are His concern.” I quoted it to myself all that day.

And really, this truth applies to everything in life, because everything is His to determine. It is out of our hands. What peace and rest I had! The realtor then called at 5 p.m. to tell us we didn’t get the house. I genuinely smiled and thanked her for all her hard work in helping us. Thank the Lord for His peace! I rested in the knowledge that it’s all His concern and He has us in His care. This, and not just a new house, is what victory looks like in the first 30 days. 

If Only.

“Then the whole community broke into loud cries, and the people wept that night. All the Israelites complained against Moses and Aaron, and the whole community told them, ‘If only we had died in the land of Egypt, or if only we had died in this wilderness! Why is the Lord bringing us into this land to die by the sword? Our wives and little children will become plunder. Wouldn’t it be better for us to go back to Egypt? So, they said to one another, “Let’s appoint a leader and go back to Egypt,”‘” Numbers 14:1-4

There is nothing wrong with weeping and crying. Here the Israelites were showing how they felt: afraid, uncertain, sad. They were grieving a loss. Even in the slavery of Egypt, life was known and predictable. Yet now they are overwhelmed with what seems unknown and threatening. They have just heard reports in Numbers 13 about the promised land. The scouts said it was good land, but the inhabitants were strong. Two men said they could take the land, while ten men said they couldn’t. How would the people know what to believe, especially with such a majority opposition. They were easily swayed because they were in an emotional state of grief and transition. 

Then they really began to err. The emotional sway gives way to grumbling. They complained about their leaders. They questioned the Lord’s direction to this threatening land. Their language became “If only,” “Why,” and “Wouldn’t it be better for us”. Second guessing, they began to go down the slippery slope of what seemed best for them. They were disregarding the leading of the Lord and the miracles He had done thus far to bring them to this place. They had forgotten about their complaints while in slavery in Exodus 2:23-25—complaints which God graciously heard and responded to. They had forgotten their song of praise and worship to the Lord after crossing the Red Sea in Exodus 15:17: “You will bring them in and plant them on the mountain of Your possession; Lord, You have prepared the place for Your dwelling.” They had sang of God’s preparation and provision for this exact promised land that they were now fearing and rejecting. 

Oh, how I do the same! How I pray for God to lead me, how I celebrate when He does, and then when things appear insurmountable and difficult, I resort to complaining and grumbling, blaming those around me, and questioning God for where I am. How my spiritual memory fails me when I am facing real giants in my life.

Could it be because my focus is on ME? I pray for ME. I rejoice when He cares for ME. I complain and rebel when it doesn’t appear that He is caring for ME. What are my eyes on? Me. My life becomes about my gains and losses. Even when my focus turns to others as the Israelites did, like my spouse and my children, my fear is based on how ultimately it will affect me, what will it cost me.

Fear is real and it is gripping. It causes us to react. The problem comes when it snatches our vision and our trust away from the greatness of God and His care and provision for us. Fear grows bigger as God gets smaller. The Israelites needed to return to their song. We too need to sing again of how God led us thus far and how He has a plan in place. He has already prepared the next step for us. May we not take our eyes off Him as we step forward.

When the hard days come.

What do you do when you are seeking but not finding? What do you do when you know deep down that God loves you, but you feel unloved and unlovely? 

I'm looking, Lord. Please find me. I'm needy, Lord. Please love me.

I'm emotional as I write today. I think I try to hold up for everyone around me in this new and stressful situation. And today I am just not feeling it. It has been coming. I can tell when it is simmering under the surface. I get into what I call a "funk." Irritable. Picky. Underground anger. Frustrated. Distancing myself from others. I can't put my finger on why. I don't want to feel this way. But I don't know what to do about it. My head knows it isn't supposed to be about me. But my heart says I need it to be about me. Direct me Lord to your holy and perfect Word that is for all life and godliness. Lead me to the Words that soothe, comfort, fill my empty spots, relieve my needy soul.

I lift my eyes toward the mountains. Where will my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth. He will not allow your foot to slip; your Protector will not slumber. Indeed, the Protector of Israel does not slumber or sleep. The Lord protects you; the Lord is a shelter right by your side. The sun will not strike you by day or the moon by night. The Lord will protect you from all harm; he will protect your life. The Lord will protect your coming and going both now and forever... Psalm 121

I lift my eyes and look. This is all I need on the days when I am needy. Just look to Him. He is caring for me continually. Are these "funk" days needed to turn my eyes upward? Does coming to the end of myself lead me to the utter dependence on God alone? Do I dare thank Him for these hard days so I can be turned back around to my First Love? Yes, I do, and with a grateful heart.

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