In the last few weeks, Jacob and I have wrestled with the question of what’s next? Originally we said we’d stay at least a year, and we’re a few weeks from that year mark. So as we look forward to the future, we’re asking now what? Should we stay or should we go? What is our purpose in this place?
Though I’d love to say we both have absolute conviction about our (tentative) decision, to be honest we both struggle with a lot of fear and uncertainty… and we’re down-right confused. We even feel guilty sometimes… it can be hard on our family for us to be so far away, and perhaps the “responsible” thing to do would be to “settle down” and get on with “real life.” You know… chase the American Dream where we buy a house, have a couple of kids, work 40+ hours a week, give money to charity, start a college fund for the little ones, and dream about retirement. The relative predictability of that seems comforting. Culturally and socially, we understand what we need to do to neatly fall into those roles. Don’t get me wrong – life throws curves at you wherever and whoever you are, but living at home and following that life plan at least feels a lot more predictable than what we’re doing right now.
But on many days, we don’t actually want the American Dream. (Not knocking those of you who do.) It is just that sometimes the American Dream becomes a trap. Not that it has to be this way, but it can quickly become the kind of life that owns you, instead of a life you own. But, don’t get me wrong… I’d love to have the discretionary income that we used to have; and a car sure would be handy. So, if nothing else, it is an enticing trap, and I find that I want what I do not want to want.
So where does this leave us? Both of us are in agreement that we should stay longer. Neither of us can really describe this feeling — it is a deeply-felt conviction on both our parts, and we find ourselves wondering if this is God directing us… or if we just think this is what we should do since it is the self-sacrificial/noble/you-fill-in-the-blank choice, and we’re just stubborn enough to stay the course until we learn to like it.
(Have I mentioned that in addition to being stubborn, both Jacob and I are incredible over-analyzers. We regularly think about things way too much.)
The odd thing about this conviction is that it isn’t what either of us really wants — in the human nature side of our hearts. What if 1 year turns into 10? What if we never have the “normal American life.” That’s scary and disconcerting! In the midst of a market crash in the USA, what if we never earn enough income again to put into a 401K?! WHO IS GOING TO TAKE CARE OF US?!!!??! See how we quickly descend into absolute fear and turmoil?
(So for those keeping track, now we can add controlling and not trusting to the list of our character flaws. Over-analyzers, stubborn, and controlling. We’re great people, right?!)
And, on top of this, I haven’t even addressed our questions of purpose. Those get overwhelming quickly, too. I should say that we are increasingly convicted that the main reason we are here is to build relationships with those around us. But it’s really hard for that to feel like a legitimate purpose, especially for two type-A overachievers. So on a practical level, we wrestle with questions that seem impossible to answer. And in this area, Jacob has it a little rougher than me. I’m a little more in my niche than he is. I get to write (which I love) for an organization that is humanitarian aid focused (which I also love). I’m not struggling as much as my husband with questions of purpose. But, poor Jacob is working on computers every day (which he hates), and in the meantime is always being told what a blessing he is (which makes him feel bad about hating the work). Furthermore, we’ve had multiple people ask us if Jacob has considered looking for work in China that would enable him to get back into electrical engineering, and that is something we’ve thought about in a very generalized way… but then we start wondering if maybe God put us here to teach us how to be more content, and that we need to learn that it doesn’t matter what we do, if we do it with a heart of service and thanksgiving, we can be a blessing. In which case, maybe we just need to sit still for a while and quit trying to get out of situations that make us uncomfortable.
(So now you can see we get to add “not content” to our list of issues.)
So what do a couple of over-analyzing, stubborn, controlling, un-content people do in a situation like this? We decide to stay another year. Why do we decide to do this? We really have no idea. Simply that we believe it is what we are supposed to do. And, I suppose it could change in the future… What are we going to do? We have no idea. Take it one day at a time, I suppose. And, we are begging God for the grace and perseverance to get through this season of uncertainty and doubt. We’d really love to have some obvious sign — a road map, if you will, pointing us in the right direction. But if not that, we’re praying for a stronger faith, a more abiding sense of peace, a deeper trust — because no matter where we live, those things are all that really matter.