By the end of this week, I will have completed my three weeks in Australia. People often ask me how my transition goes, and I usually (and genuinely) say fine. I do not really enjoy the weather, but I can cope with lots of blankets, jackets, socks, hot drinks and cuddling with my husband. I mostly have no troubles understanding people when they speak English to me since I have been using it regularly. Our housing situation is adequate and efficient at this stage, thanks to our kind friends. I am on a job hunt and it seems to go well. I have not gotten homesick (yet). And Joel and I are back together, readjusting and relearning about each other, which is awesome. Mostly, I am fine.
But then there are deeper things. Mainly, the matter of the heart. Having been here for almost a month, I realised that the novelty of the newness is starting die away. The weather conversation is getting old, seeing that it is always cold in Canberra. The excitement of being in a new culture is being replaced with nervousness as I am phasing out of the vacation period and entering into the real life – getting into a routine, making new friends and trying to find my place and a sense of belonging here.
I do realise that there is a place for me here, that God has brought Joel and I here for His purposes. But to feel like one truly belongs does not happen over a night or in a month. It takes time, determination and courage to invest in establishing a life here. One aspect of life is relationship. It is challenging, to say the least, to enter into a place where everyone knows everyone else, and you are still trying to match names with faces (and my husband does not make it easier since he knows probably the whole congregation). In the youth meeting tonight, when we talked about visiting different congregations and started to drop names of people and places that are foreign to me, my mind was getting foggy and wandering into other trains of thoughts irrelevant to what was being discussed. When you are a new kid in the block, there is uncertainty as to how people are going to receive you. With that comes insecurity.
From my outer appearance, I may seem capable of holding conversations, but that is the byproducts of having moved around in the past few years and of marrying to an outgoing person like Joel. Though I feel nervous inside every time I enter into a new building or talk to a new person, I have learned to be friendly and approachable. But what I really crave, and which allows me to strive and thrive best, is a deep relationship with someone – that kind of relationship that involves understanding and history that goes way back, like when you look into someone’s eye, you know what he/ she is thinking. But to acquire that, I gotta be bold. Yet to be bold, I have got to overcome all my insecurities and wondering.
So one night I prayed that God would show me how to be bold. The phrase “do it anyway” jumped up at me. It was the theme I picked up from church last Sunday through stories of Paul and Silas with the Philippian jailer, of Micah the prophet and of Paul’s letter to the Corinthians. We know the story from Acts 16, how Paul and Silas converted the jailer, but the point Joel talked about was how they did not run away when they could have (the angel even told them to) in order to ascertain that the jailer would not be punished or kill himself, which consequently led to his salvation. They could have run but they stayed anyway. The sermon was focused on the life of Micah the prophet, and how he went about proclaiming God’s message. I was reminded of how many other prophets of Yahweh did the same thing, and ended up in a trench like Jeremiah or Ezekiel. They were confronted with hunger, suffering and shame, but they did it anyway. Later, during the bible study, we explored how the church was like at the time Paul wrote the letter, and why his exhortation was so intense and emotional. In 2 Corinthians 6, Paul wrote about his hardship and how he continued to serve the Lord in “great endurance”, “in distress”, or “in sleepless nights and hunger”. He could have done other things in life considering his quality, but Christ’s love compelled him. In fact, what is a better example than Jesus who could have saved Himself, yet He gave His life as a ransom to many, including me. All these people “did it anyway” regardless of the costs. Why? Because they loved the Lord.
My situation is not as extreme, but the core message can be applied. God calls me to live for and serve Him, period. Our purpose – Joel’s and mine – is to make Him known in whatever we do and wherever we live. However, I will not be able to do that unless I start being bold. So besides getting through the culture shock (which will eventually pass), I have decided to overcome my insecurity by doing “it” anyway. Instead of waiting for someone to talk to me, I will try to initiate the conversation even though a voice may be shouting in my head, “who are you to speak? you are just a newcomer! they’ll eventually lose interest of you.” (Believe me, this voice is real.) When a negative though comes into my mind, I will brush it aside and pray. When I doubt in my existence and purpose here, I will look to my husband and know that this is where I belong. This is where we will take root and call home.
Loving God can be expressed in many shapes and forms, whether through being committed to a church, feeding the poor, encouraging the downcast, giving money to those in need, singing songs, playing sports, teaching His word, you name it. We do all this in obedience to Him regardless of the costs because we love Him. At this stage of my life, the expression of my faith may not be as “heroic” as I wanted it to be, but the obedience to do “little things” like initiating conversation or overcoming negativity is my mustard seed. I hope God will make it grow.