On Staying, Leaving, And Which Is Harder

by Abby Alleman on February 23, 2016


Only Perfect Love

I lie in a hospital bed. Tubes run in and through me. Though I remember that I am in the hospital, I do not know why I am in the ICU of Szent Imre Korhaz. 

It is morning. 

The light glides over my bed, streaming through tall glass windows as it bounces off the high rise cement apartment buildings across the street. 

I know two things: I am alive. I am loved.

Saturday marked a year since I went into the hospital in Hungary. Two grueling weeks in both my and my husband’s life which ultimately changed the course of our life. Before they happened, I would have thought staying overseas was harder and leaving was the easy way out.

But not now. Now I know there is another way to see both.

The truth is sometimes it is harder to stay. Sometimes it is harder to leave. But the hardest of all is to know perfect love so fully that we can walk either path without fear.

Life is seldom what we expect it to be. There are breathtaking surprises which change our lives forever. There are unspeakable tragedies that alter our courses profoundly. The only thing we can know for certain about life is that we do not know what tomorrow will bring.

Thankfully, our hope is not in this life.

I have learned this through my journey overseas and the crisis which led us to return home long before we planned. I have learned this through my mother’s cancer and death. I have learned it in the tragedies which daily flood the news, some more personal than others.

Yet, I thought too, I had learned about letting go of control of this life through the moves and transitions of our missionary journey. I thought I had let go of fear to begin a new life. It would be limitless faith, unreserved commitment and telltale determination which would see us through.

But the heart is subtly deceptive despite our best intentions to know it. Trial and suffering in the form of the unexpected have a way of revealing things. They show us what is really happening in hidden soul places.

For me, the crisis I experienced overseas was both horrifying and freeing. First the horror. Then the freedom. Likely, it would not be this dramatic with you or most people. Yet, what I most want to say is that this freedom is a gift coming in the form of perfect love. So is what comes before it, no matter how horrific.

When the apostle John speaks of perfect love in I John 4:18, it is preceded by a declaration:

‘We have seen and testify that the Father has sent His son to be the Savior of the world.’

He goes on to say that it is our confession of His Son that gives us a dwelling with God and he with us. It is a dwelling bound in love, His perfect love.

And that love is not tied to our staying in or leaving the country of our calling. It is completely wrapped up in the Father sending His Son to save the world.

Ironically, sometimes we move cross-culturally and expand our understanding of the world, only to have our view of God become smaller. His work becomes bound to our mission and host nation instead of the person of Christ. 

But it is in the times of our greatest need, when only perfect love will satisfy. It is then  that we see clearly what our deepest heart loves are. 

These moments are poignant. They come through disappointment, failure, crisis and tragedy. They mark both our staying and our leaving. They lead us through the refining fire, molding a faith more precious than gold. They bring forth the things that will remain when we stand before God and hear the longing of our hearts, ‘Well done.’

They cannot be defined by geography, only perfect love.

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About Abby Alleman

A farm girl at heart, Abigail (Abby) loves the surprising stories God writes. Since her first plane trip at the age of twenty landed her in Barcelona, Spain, Abby knew her life would never be the same. She holds degrees in both Math and Spanish and is a former high school teacher. She has served as a translator and short-term missionary in Latin America and inner city Philadelphia. But her most treasured journey is when her big dreams came crashing to the ground, when heartbreak and humility brought her home to her family, God and eventually right to her husband, Jared. They have worked with the student ministry of CRU for over ten years in both the U.S. and Hungary. She has three small kids and blogs her life and love of story at Abigail Alleman ( www.abigailalleman.com ).

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