Wednesday, June 25, 2014

A Pair of Ducks

Timothy, Josiah, & Benjamin outside St. John's UMC
One of the trickiest things missionaries deal with is "living between two worlds." It's not just a missionary thing, but it is more easily seen in those lives which tend to have more transition. Something we talked about a lot in our pre-field training is the idea of "good goodbyes" and "healthy hellos." It is rarely as simple as leaving one place and arriving in a new one.

Yay Duck & Yuck Duck
At the training, they even talked with our kids about this paradox we live in. However, to help them process, they talked not about "Paradox," which is a big, intimidating word, but about a "Pair of Ducks." They showed the kids two rubber ducks; one, all bright and clean and yellow, the other, marked, and dirty and discolored. These are the "Yay Duck" and the "Yuck Duck," the two sides of every situation and transition. We still use this language in our family as we come to terms with the realities of moving from one place to another.

As we were planning to come back to the States, there were "Yay Duck" things. We were excited to see family again. We were thrilled to sit and have coffee with friends we had missed. We couldn't wait to get a cheese steak and a wawa hoagie. We looked forward to reconnecting with churches and sharing about what God had done. And yet for each "Yay Duck" there comes a "Yuck Duck." Sadness of saying goodbye to those who had become friends. Leaving colleagues who had become family. The absence of the foods that had become comforting. These conflicting feelings of excitement and sorrow (paradox) make us feel a little crazy.

As we go through these times, we must also be aware of those around us. When we are leaving there are those who are NOT excited about us leaving. They don't have the happy feelings, only the sorrow. They see the "Yuck Duck" more. But when we reach our destination, we are greeted warmly and everything is excitement. Those receiving us don't feel our sorrow at what was left behind. These friends are focused on what is coming. It is all "Yay Ducks" to the people you are going to.
So there is a line to walk. With those we love on both sides of the ocean, but also within ourselves. How do we fully embrace both the excitement and the sorrow, both what we are gaining and what we have left? There is only one healthy way to do it. By relying fully on Jesus. Trusting Him in every moment, every conversation and every thought and feeling.

Right now we are going through these same feelings again, in a different way. This Sunday, we transferred our church memebership from what was our home church in Mississippi to a church in New Jersey. We are so excited to be connected and feel so loved by the people of St. John's UMC in Turnersville, NJ. It has been such a blessing to see how they have welcomed us and gotten behind us and our ministry. It has also been hugely important for our family to have a local church to call home here in New Jersey, where so many of our family, friends, and ministry partners are located.

But part of my heart is still broken at the loss of our former church. We still have many friends and some great supporters there. But, for many reasons, it became clear to us this fall that the church was in the midst of change and it was time for us to move on. "Yay Duck" meet "Yuck Duck." No matter what, loss is hard. But we are also excited about the new. Excited to see how God wants to use us at St. John's and how God wants to use this church in our lives, in our ministry, and for the sake of His Kingdom in Africa and around the world.

There are two ways of dealing with the paradoxes of life. One, you can choose to not engage, not invest, not give yourself to those around you. This way makes the transitions easier, the grief less, and your life empty. The other option is to choose to engage, to invest, to give yourself to those around you, and to love deeply. Yes, it will make leaving harder. Yes, it makes life messier. Yes, it will mean the struggle of loving and living in multiple places at once (think of the game twister). But it is worth it, oh, so worth it. Lean into the paradoxes of life and take each as an opportunity to lean into Jesus.

1 comment:

Kelly Hallahan said...

Well done, Meg! Love this post. I wrote about leaving this weekend too :)