You are the reason I’m afraid to walk along the road with a single car driving by.
You are the reason I tense up when I see police officers.
You are the reason I don’t like going out after dark anymore.
You are the reason I am constantly on guard, even in the most seemingly safe of places.
You are the reason I have white knuckles every time I get on the highway.
You are the reason I can’t enter a grocery store without giving myself a five-minute pep talk.
You are the reason I look like a nervous wreck when I approach the counter at a fast-food place.
You are the reason I have a hard time trusting people in authority.
You are the reason I need so much alone time now and can’t handle social situations like I used to.
You are the reason my heart tightens in my chest when I get just the faintest of fevers or bumps.
You are the reason I started to grow doubts about God, faith, missions, and international development work and all the things I’ve ever loved.
You are the reason my husband and I thought about giving up on each other after 11 years of love and laughs.
You are the reason I can barely manage to produce a frown, let alone tears, some days when confronted with the tragedy of another death. I’ve seen too much.
You are the reason I feel overwhelmed and overstimulated around automatic doors, and sinks, and toilets, and lights.
You are the reason I can’t remember simple road rules like yielding to school buses and stop signs.
You are the reason I feel comfortable in a room of people who look nothing like me, but awkward as can be in a room full of seemingly familiar faces
You, my dearest host country, are the reason I have become this person that I am today.
When I’m at my lowest moments during this transition back to living in my passport country again, all I can think of is everything that you’ve taken from me. All the ways in which you’ve turned me into this overly anxious, fearful, and unconfident human being now navigating life back on this side of the ocean.
Beyond all the physical things that were taken from me during my years there, I feel like I’ve been robbed of who I was before I arrived. There are things about this person I see in the mirror that I don’t even recognize, things that others might not see, but that I feel deep within my soul.
You are the reason for so many of my sorrows, so many of my new quirks, and so many of my odd triggers.
And yet, would I change it if I had the chance? Knowing what I know now and having experienced everything I’ve experienced, would I do it all again? Would I quit my job and all things familiar and pack up and move my family across the world? Would I let you take all these things from me again? And for what? What did you give me in return?
And then I realize….
You are the reason my heart resonates so deeply now with the immigrant, the refugee, the foreigner, the lost.
You are the reason I stopped pretending to be someone I’m not and just let myself be.
You are the reason for the cracks in my type-A perfectionist nature that controlled me for so long.
You are the reason I can offer a safe place for so many weary souls in this world.
You are the reason I finally learned to trust God wholeheartedly with my finances after years of letting them have mastery over me.
You are the reason my heart was turned from stone into flesh, making room for more people in my heart than I ever thought possible.
You are the reason I’ve been able to stay in touch with so many of my friends from all my previous walks of life as we built a network of amazing supporters to carry us through.
You are the reason I finally laid my trophies down at the feet of that old rugged cross and let my strivings cease, after decades and decades of chasing after accolades.
You are the reason I finally understood and accepted my own weaknesses and truly allowed the strength and power of God to shine through, rather than around, that weakness.
You are the reason I know how to survive and take care of myself in some of the strangest of situations.
You are the reason I can stand up and give a full-on speech at a moment’s notice – thanks to all that unsolicited practice you gave me!
You are the reason for my new passion for creating opportunities for equity, access, belonging, and inclusion for ALL who wish to pursue healthier lives, relationships, and communities.
You may have taken my time, my joy, my sense of security, my confidence, and my very identity, but what you gave back was more than I could even measure.
I am no longer the same 24-year-old girl who stepped off the plane into the humid tropical air, ready to change the world. Rather than coming up with all my own plans all the time, I am eager to submit to His; they always work out so much better than what I had come up with. I no longer feel the need to rush through life, racing from one accomplishment to the next; what I crave now is His presence more than anything.
I’ve learned to listen, and listen with my whole body, not just my ears, and I like what I hear. I’ve learned to value people, not by what they can do for me, but by how God sees them and to love them as His own. I’ve learned that change takes time, and it can’t be forced or rushed, no matter how much I believe it can. I’ve learned that I can’t control people, particularly in matters of the heart, and that relationships are so much more satisfying when you learn to let go and just love a person where they are at.
There may still be days when I will curse you and resent you, but today I want to thank you. Thank you for embracing me and my family and showing us a whole other side of what it means to follow the Lord, of what it means to be human, to be truly alive. I may have grown slower and more awkward and timid and jaded than I’d like to admit, but I’m also more caring, patient, sincere, resilient, humble, obedient, and discerning than I ever would have been without you.
As iron sharpens iron, so a friend sharpens another friend. You, my friend, are the iron the Lord has used to both sharpen and soften my heart, and for that I will be forever grateful for the years we had together.
We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body.
(2 Corinthians 4:8-10)