I am writing this two or three weeks in advance and things are changing quickly in the world, so I don’t know what things will look like when you read it, but I am trusting that we’ll be at least midway, if not coming out the other side of the COVID-19 Pandemic. Having lived almost half my life cross-culturally now, I am observing America from afar as you deal with, let’s see… Unexpected changes, unprecedented territory, unknowns and more unknowns… Welcome to the world of your friends who work cross-culturally! I am not the only ex-pat who has noticed the similarities between what you have been experiencing and culture shock. While I spend much of my life awkward and uncertain, I now feel like I have a bit of an advantage- and a lot of empathy. It’s been on my heart to share one or two things I’ve learned over years of dealing with all the ‘un’s’ above in hopes that it might be helpful.
It probably goes without saying, but then again, always bears repeating that keeping focused on our unchanging God who is always on His throne through time in the Word and worship will go a long way in steadying your heart. I think you also know, but here’s a reminder- choosing gratitude will strengthen your soul and bless those around you. Choosing grace is also key. Everyone has been dealing with these changes according to their own personalities and backgrounds. Be forgiving and be kind. But there are a couple of other things I’ve learned that I don’t want my friends to miss- even as the crisis is hopefully calming down.
Please grieve your losses. You might expect someone who lives in a developing nation and works with refugees and trafficking victims to tell you to ‘buck up’ and get over it, to laugh at your ‘first world problems.’ But losses can’t be compared or categorized. If you had to end your school year suddenly without saying goodbye to friends (or students); if you didn’t get to compete in the sports tournament or perform in the play or concert you’d practiced for- that’s a loss and it’s real. Losing your business or your job is a big deal. None of it is less of a loss because the whole world is suffering loss at the same time. Don’t brush it off- it will catch up with you later. (I may be speaking from experience). Take time in your family or with your friends or on your own to name your losses from this wild season before the Lord. Let Him be with you in the sadness or anger and then release it to Him. Be sure to take time to do this if you have busied yourself with serving others, so that the service does not become an escape which will eventually burn you out.
Secondly, take a little time for some holy introspection. The kind of massive uncertainty and sudden changes everyone has just been experiencing brings out our best, and most definitely our worst! If you found yourself anxious and fearful, don’t laugh it off when things begin to calm down- ask the Lord and yourself- why? Where have you put your trust outside of Him? If you found yourself angry, irritable with the people in your house, don’t just blow it off as a normal reaction to the stress. Use it as an opportunity to grow in love and Christ-likeness. Bring these things before the Lord, ask forgiveness (because normal or not, yelling at your spouse or children or parents is not okay), and then ask Him to show you why you responded this way; what idols or selfishness are still lurking in your heart. What do you need to lay down? Anything you have seen in yourself that you didn’t really like during this time is something the Holy Spirit wants to give you grace to die to. Dying to ourselves and becoming more like Jesus is the whole goal of our lives- don’t waste this opportunity!
My prayer is that the Church across the globe will come out of the crazy events of this year shining brighter than ever! May that be true of RCC and of each one of you who is a part of this family!
Love, Michele (Partner in Asia)