Today’s post is a guest post by Jennifer Deibel, writing about roots and rootlessness and the expatriate life. I’m thankful for her willingness to share her words with Djibouti Jones readers. Be sure to check out her website (link below) after enjoying this piece.
We looked at each other across the airplane aisle and sighed.
We had all the important things for yet another overseas move, right? Luggage? Check! Snacks? Check! Important documents? Check!
We had everything we needed and yet something was missing. As I dug in my purse for a tissue and he absently patted his pockets we realized:
We have no keys!
We hadn’t lost them. They hadn’t been stolen. We simply had no house, no car, and no safety deposit boxes for which to carry keys.
Suddenly, instead of an airplane taxiing down the runway, we were on a raft drifting on open waters without an anchor.
It’s a strange thing to have no physical ties to the world. It’s a love-hate kind of thing for me in the whole expat experience. Sometimes I think I was in the wrong line of work, what with my type-A, predictability-loving heart and all. However, through the uncertainty and untetheredness of it all, I learned so much about who I am and what I can handle. And through the process, and over ten years of this lifestyle, we’ve learned a few things.
Not having an anchor can be disorienting.
Without a house or car to tie us down it can be easy to lack a sense of purpose and direction. When you feel tossed about by the winds of culture and circumstance it can set your head spinning and stomach churning. It’s a strange thing to not have one place to point to and say, “This is home.” Yet for my family, and me – and many expats – that is our normal.
Not having an anchor can be freeing.
When you don’t have anything tying you down to a particular location or situation, suddenly the opportunities can be endless and it’s terribly exciting! Suddenly the page is blank, ready for you to write a new chapter of your story. Ironically, this has been the hardest lesson of all for me. As a Christian, I like to believe that my security is placed solely in the Christ I follow. The ugly truth of it is, though, I all too often place too much stock in the physical things of this world – a house; a job; a place; certain people. However, the freedom found in the absence of those things is like a tail wind to the airplane of my faith. I have no choice but to let those tangible things fall from my fingers, spread my arms wide and trust the Wind to carry me safely to the next place.
Your “anchor” may be different from mine.
For us, realizing we had no keys was a defining, freeing, slightly anxious time. Maybe you have your house and car, but something else that gave you a sense of anchoring has been removed from your life.
When a relationship, job, home or other facet of our lives is suddenly removed, it can leave us foundering a bit, just like that raft in the sea, searching for purpose and meaning.
However, as a follower of Jesus, my purpose is to continually be transformed by God to be more and more like Christ. God then uses His plans for me to accomplish that purpose.
When I realize that God’s purpose for me is the same in all circumstances, that very truth anchors me in times of uncertainty and disorientation.
Have you had to let go of any “keys” lately? Does your faith influence how you deal with those situations?
I have been on that raft several times, except for me it felt like a swiftly flowing river. It can be scary, but what a ride!
I can understand that feeling of disorientation and freedom at the same time. 🙂