Monday, January 19, 2015

Growing Pains: Did you really think there wouldn't be a cost?

That day when you sent me out so boldly to change the world, did you really think there wouldn't be a cost?” --Martin Luther in the movie “Luther”

When we enter Christian service on any level, we'd be terribly naive to believe there will be no cost. Any perusal of scripture leaves no doubt, “To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps,” 1 Peter 2:21 explains. But so often the cost proves very different from what we brace ourselves for.

I recently read of blog about how missionaries can never go home again. They are truly strangers and aliens when they go home on furlough as they return to a world that is no longer their own. Friends and family members' lives have moved on. They find they no longer really fit in. So “going home” is really not going home at all. Back in the country where they serve, they find they can never fully fit in either. They are always a little behind the power curve. In one way it has become home; in another, they find they remain just another foreigner. And so we, as missionaries, are truly strangers in a strange land wherever we go. It is cost that comes with the territory.

I have largely learned to just accept it. It is a price that must be paid to have the privilege of living an extraordinary experience in the plan of God for this world. And it is very worth it. The alternative of just remaining hunkered down in one spot never understanding that people see the world differently, to me, is completely unthinkable.

But lately, this cost has erupted with new significance for me. Everyone thinks about the sacrifices missionaries make when the leave their home country for the mission field. Few give thought to the pain involved when circumstances require missionaries to leave the mission field they so desperately love to go “home.”

America is not home anymore for me. Mikepercs, Hungary is home with all its roosters crowing in the middle of the night, the dogs barking, and the smell of coal thickening the winter air. The horse-and-wagons rumbling down the street outside our house still make me smile as do the sounds of the village festivals melding the croaking frogs in the midsummer's twilight.

And yet, circumstances beyond our control, confirmed by affirmation from above (that I really did not want to listen to), have made it clear that in this next year we will be returning to the states.

In a lot of ways for us, it is like moving to a mysterious foreign country. The USA has changed so much since we lived there some 15 years ago. Technology has evolved. I don't even know how to pay bills in America anymore. I feel awkward and ignorant when I am in the states. I still feel that way in Hungary sometimes, but people understand that here. I am a foreigner!

I don't know how to use a smart phone! I've forgotten that gas comes in gallons, and how much is gallon, anyway? Miles instead of kilometers. Pounds instead of kilograms. No one walks anywhere. Public transportation is scarce. Food tastes funny because of all the preservatives. I am already culture shocking and we haven't even left yet!

Once again we find ourselves strangers in a strange land. And it is scary, scarier than when we came to Hungary, because we have three teenagers to shepherd through the radical change – three kids who know little about American life and culture.

When watching the movie “Luther” the other night, one quote stood out to me. As Luther's views began to shake up the establishment, he was confronted by his early mentor. Luther responded, “Did you really think there wouldn't be a cost?” It echoed in the recesses of my spirit.

Yes, I thought there would be a cost, but I didn't count on it being this one. It hurts to lose Hungary and the remarkable people I have come to know and love here. The things they have taught me shall be treasured in my heart for decades to come. They have made me into the person I am. Hungary has changed me, and I cannot imagine my life without this precious place.

And still we must go. Through the ache and with a heavy sigh, we will have to move forward and again become “strangers and aliens” because we indeed are not of this world.

No, moving to Texas is not going home. The only real home will not be found here in the “puszta” of Hungary or there on the plains of Texas. The only true home will be found in the Heavenly hereafter.

This perpetual sense of loss and feeling of homelessness is all part of the cost. And although the cost is high, I'd suffer the ache again and again. Because at the end of this life, I know the pain will not prove pointless. It will prove to have been what's necessary to grow into what I needed to be. 

It's just
growing pains.