(from May 7, 2013)
Last week, one of our colleagues posed the question: "Do you feel at home, here in Portugal?" The answer practically fell out of my mouth. "Yes!" I then gave a rapid answer to my rapid response. But now as I sit at a cafe in a small town that isn't really "home," I reflect on why I did give such a rapid response.
My reasoning does not lie in the fact that I love this place. I mean, I do love this place. The people are wonderful, our little community has been very welcoming, and while the language can be difficult, I actually find it quite enjoyable overall, and... well... Do I really need to say it? We live 50 yards from the beach! As I count all these appealing factors on one hand, I then look to the other hand. The hand that holds those days when I don't want to hear another word of Portuguese. Those days I would rather stay in, watch American TV while I eat my American burger with American mac and cheese and dream about all the places I want to go once I am back on American soil. Some days, the culture and "the way things are done" here drive me crazy.
So, I look at both of my hands. But then I see bigger hands. I see the hands that have put us in this specific place at this specific time. I see the hands that have shaped my life and my heart and have brought me to this moment. To this season in life. I see the hands of a God so powerful and so perfect and so generous as to allow me to share in His work here.
I am not here because I want to be away from family, friends, English, comfort, or convenience.
I am here because God has called us here, and I am here because I believe He has made us for this.
And the reason I answered so rapidly is just this: I feel so "at home" because I have never felt so close to the Lord. I have shed tears over missed relationships, and I have panicked over doing things that would be so simple in the States, yet requires so much effort in a foreign country. But in the midst of it all, in my very vulnerable state, He has allowed me to see more clearly my need and my desire for Him. I feel as if He has awakened my spirit by first bringing me through a state of desperation for the things I once thought I needed and into a state of complete contentment and joy in Him alone. He has brought me to my knees and to His Word. And while there are still days that I fail to completely trust Him and I remain as sinful as ever, God continues to displays his unconditional love for me in many ways, but mostly in the fact that He continues to teach me and allow me to grow in my faith.
"For we know that if the earthly tent which is our house is torn down, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. For indeed in this house we groan, longing to be clothed with our dwelling from heaven... And knowing that while we are at home in the body we are absent from the Lord - for we walk by faith, not by sight."
1 Corinthians 5:1-2, 6-7
And so, my feet go forward in faith, and my heart is at home because I am walking with the Lord, and that is the closest thing to "home" that I am going to get on this earth.