The plane ascended into the distance, I sighed, turned around and walked towards the car. Its part of the process. I understand. I also understand that it will take time. Things like this take time.
I got back home and thought about going straight back to bed; after all I hadn’t had but about four hours of sleep. I decided on breakfast first. I poured myself a glass of juice and sliced some bread. Susanne came into the kitchen and asked about the week and how things had gone. As we talked, I lost the grip I had on my glass and the juice slipped from my hand and spilled all over the counter, all over me, and onto the floor. I sighed again. I really wanted to scream. I wanted to scream at the top of my lungs, “Doesn’t any one understand that I’m lonely? That I miss what I know? That I miss what is familiar and comfortable to me? I miss my family and friends? That I’m tired? That I am tired of saying goodbye?”
I didn’t scream.
I picked up a towel and cleaned up my mess. It wasn’t Susanne’s fault. It wasn’t any one’s fault. No one had done anything wrong. There was no one to be upset with. I was just frustrated.
Yesterday morning at 6:55am, I waved farewell to another team. This one from Texas. Its hard to imagine growing close to twelve people in just a few short days but there’s something that happens in the process of doing life together, especially in the way that it happens with a team out in the villages, that forces your hand and requires you to show your cards early in the game. Not that friendships that happen with the members of a team are forced and if given the choice we would have chosen differently but only this; when you spend four solid days with people you get to know them quickly and friendships that may have naturally developed over months of time come about much more quickly. When you eat every meal together, sleep together, play together, sing together, pray together and even brush your teeth together, with little to no personal time or space, over a matter of just a few days, the natural overflow of that kind of environment is familiarity. You quickly come to recognize the nuances of people; their quirks, habits, preferences, frustrations, and joys. Little things that you might not even notice for weeks or months in a regular setting become very apparent, very soon. You notice when people check out; When they hit a wall; When they need space; When they need to be drawn back in. You can’t help but notice. I can’t help but notice. For me, the natural result of this familiarity is a sense of community. Maybe its because community as I have known it most of my life is no longer. When I left Jacksonville I left a tightly woven network of friends and family; people I could call up and say, “I’m at Target and they have these really awesome shoes. Do you think I should get the green ones or the yellow ones?” People who would go to a used bookstore with me just because. or the museum. or an art exhibit. or the library. People who would call up and say “I feel like doing an art project and I have some random roofing supplies. Want to try and make something?” People I could meet at Barnes and Noble to sit on the floor with and read children’s books to one another for hours. People who would call me up and tell me they heard my favorite band was playing and ask me if I wanted to go…I miss that. Terribly. Its not as though I don’t have friends here because I am slowly building community. Beth and Susanne have been great about including me in on things; a dinner with friends or a get together at someone’s house. Gary and Marilyn have invited me over often just to sit and chat or work on the computer together, or play dominoes and have a Diet Coke. I enjoy those times and I am grateful for them so I don’t want to diminish their value. But its still different than what I have known. Its just different and will take time for this to become my familiar. So maybe that's why its been so easy for me to fall into community with the teams so instinctively. But really, I don’t believe that. I don’t think anyone else who knows me would either. I remember a long time ago being asked by someone what I was passionate about and my response was, people. I think that’s where the immediate connection and familiarly comes from; I’ve always been that way. I think all of the missionaries I work with are that way. The McGaughlins, the Moses’, the Shoemakers. I believe its one of the ways God has equipped us for the life to which He has called us. We’re relational by nature.
The hard part though is the constant realization that just as quickly as these friends come into my life, they will be gone. Most of them I will never see again this side of Heaven. Over the past few months, my life has been so full of good byes; good bye to family, good bye to friends, good bye to so many things I love, so many things that were familiar and comfortable to me and yesterday marked another set of good byes.
We had a great week. We accomplished a lot of great things. Many lives were changed. I made a lot new friends and a lot of great new memories so there was a good feeling about all that occurred. Yet that goodness was also marked by a sense of impending sadness.
Tomorrow, and each passing day, it will get easier. But today I still feel that sadness. Next Friday another team comes in. I can’t help but wonder if I will feel this way with each team or if I’ll simply grow accustomed to the process. I don’t say all of this to mean that every day I am miserable and with each new day I can only hope that I’ll finally find some glimmer of happiness. I am content to be where I am. I know I am where I am supposed to be. I know that there will always be difficulties even in the midst of joy. This is just part of learning a new way of life; it will take time.
I was soaking the juice up when Beth came in. She said that she was planning a dinner party Saturday night because it was her birthday and it was Shaun and Heather’s wedding anniversary. One of the Haitian Pastors in the area and his family was coming and she wanted to see if I would be available to come as well. Outwardly I had recovered from spilling the juice and from screaming at the top of my imagination and as she and I chatted I was struck with the oddest realization that life goes on. As simple as that, life goes on. I was feeling sad and lonely and frustrated and yet life all around me continued to march forward with little intention of looking back. And there was nothing that could be done to change that. It wasn’t a brand new realization but a fresh reminder. And while I recognize that, I am in a new place and still don’t know quite what to do with that.
Sometimes, you don’t know what to do. You can’t know what to do. You can’t figure things out or understand. And when that happens, you just have to do what you know; move forward and let God fill in the places that are missing in your faith and let him reveal the greater details of His plan in His time and in His way. And so that’s where I’m at. This is difficult but God never promised that it wouldn’t be. He only promised to maintain His position when things get rough. And I’m trusting Him to do just that.
Yesterday morning, I didn’t know what to do. I was physically exhausted and emotionally drained. So I did the only thing that I knew to do, what I had done many mornings in the recent past; I poured myself another glass of mango juice, spread some peanut butter on my bread and ate breakfast.