A God Not Limited by Geography

Some thoughts on living in the United States and in Asia, and how God will never be limited by geography. I wrote this originally nearly a year and a half ago, when we first relocated back to the US: 

It’s hard to reconcile the two lives I’ve lived in the past two weeks. One overlooking rice fields, the other at the foot of Pike’s Peak. One with Mississippi-summer-heat by 9 am, the other too chilly even for my cutest of skirts. One with scooters flying and orchids climbing, the other with bikes on trails beside pine trees and aspens.

In many ways, it’s a bit of an out-of-body experience that leaves me still feeling like a fish-out-of-water.

Like the times when I’ll start to bow politely {or “y”} to an elderly person, like we’d always do in Asia for a greeting, and then have to make like I’m  super-interested in something related to my shoe. Or the times when I just can’t seem to read the menus on the board fast enough and the line behind me grows longer, causing the lady at the cash register to politely huff.  There are moments when I’ll start to answer in Asian and catch myself, moments when I have to really concentrate to drive on the right side of the road,

moments when the options at the grocery store make me simultaneously feel as if I’ve won the lottery and gotten buried by a landslide. 

And then there are differences that run deeper than the 27 flavors on the yogurt aisles or the position of a steering wheel. This American life has a different pace than our Asian one did. It’s faster, but in many ways, it’s easier, too. Simple tasks, like signing my kid up for soccer or getting a bookshelf for our living room, can be accomplished ohsoquickly here. With one stop. In a language and system I intrinsically understand. In fact, Matt said the other day that he felt much more efficient working in the States because so much of his energy wasn’t’ expended on basic family survival. And I get this.

But sometimes easier can translate into a false sense of spiritual-numbness, too.

I remember in Asia, I prayed literally every time I got in a car because the driving was so incredibly stressful– I prayed we wouldn’t hit a baby and mother on a scooter, I prayed the police wouldn’t stop us, I asked for angels to surround our 20-year-old car. And here? Well, honestly, I haven’t prayed once for God’s protection driving– maybe because I don’t feel like I really need it.

In SE Asia, I also remember pleading with God for the grace to be positive and thankful when I walked out with groceries from the local 7-11, and it was painfully the same five things to eat for breakfast and lunch: cereal, yogurt, peanut butter sandwiches, chips, and noodles with ketchup. But here in the States?  We sit down to feasts nightly, and I’m not sure we’ve eaten the exact same thing twice in two weeks. And while I do breathe gratitude for the abundance, I’m not forced into a place of pleading when I sit down to my grilled chicken, yeast rolls, and broccoli that you can buy pre-chopped and in little steamer bags.

Back here at home, I don’t have to beg for supernatural understanding with a language I never could quite fully get. I don’t have to grasp for Spirit-grace like a rope out of a pit. I don’t have to praylikemad that I’ll be able to survive another day on 50% oxygen.

And I do have a natural fear that all this abundance will quickly become my norm, the expected. And my nice used van will somehow become too small, and Walmart will somehow not have exactly what I want {is that really possible?}, and I’ll complain about that. Or, worse, that I’ll be in such a rush that I’ll be rude to the lady at the checkout counter. I have a fear that the things I’ve learned overseas will fade quickly, like a childhood memory or summer camp or a New Year’s resolution I only kept till Febraury.

But, then, then I remember that God is always, always in the business of transformation. And to say that transformation can only take place overseas is a lie, just like it’s a lie that says the change that happened there will disappear when you are living back in your home country.  

God has never been bound by latitude, after all.

And to claim that he works more or better in one location than the another is stuffing him in a box he’ll keep refusing to stay in.


Do you fall into the assumption that God does more or better work in and through you while living overseas? What is the danger (is there a danger?) of this subtle belief? 

Laura Parker, Co-founder/Editor, Former Aid Worker in SE Asia


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A Life Overseas is a collective blog centered around the realities, ethics, spiritual struggles, and strategies of living overseas. Elizabeth Trotter is the editor-in-chief.

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