catapult magazine

catapult magazine

Vol 4, Num 24 :: 2005.12.30 — 2006.01.12


Leaving home to go home

I had never seen Zo? cry, and even now she only teetered on the brink of tears. Although she would not let herself dissolve into emotion here and now, I knew that when we had finally gone through the gates, the good byes said, the prayers and blessings pronounced, as soon as she was comfortably home with her husband, the tears would not stop. I felt honoured; this was the closeness of our friendship. Remembering that day still brings tears to my eyes.

She was my wife?s closest confidant. Their professional careers shared many experiences and qualities. Had my Indonesian wife an English double she might have fooled even me. Zo? had been my ministry leader and coach. She was the one who, in the wars of leadership and power struggles, believed and trusted in me. In those tumultuous times we became her sounding board, shoulders to lean on, and close friends. We shared meals, movies and wine together, just to unwind and forget the day. We laughed, drank coffee and talked. Still, I had never seen her cry, and she wouldn?t allow herself to do so in the busy airport corridors.

We lived in The Netherlands for almost seven years. The intended two year stay became just one more; then just one more; then an apartment outside of Amsterdam; a new church; our first child. We met Zo? at the new church, and over the next three years our friendship grew. Together we struggled through internal wrangling and Dutch bureaucracy. We helped her move house. (Twice!) She met her future husband and married him, and the four of us spent hours together solving the world?s problems. They are Godparents to our son.

I was unsure about staying permanently, caught between what had become an exciting place to live, and mother country Australia, with family and a language and a people I could at least understand properly. I think I wanted to stay, but it was such a departure from our original plans that I couldn?t bring myself to accept it. When my wife first brought up moving back, my heart raced with anxiety. I was still so unsure. I didn?t know what to do. Eventually we prayed.

It would mean leaving this small home, leaving our fun ?European Adventure? of culture, art and history, and going back to a place I wasn?t sure I wanted to return to. The few times we returned for a holiday the extended family dynamics were, at times, rather difficult. We would need somewhere to live. I would need to find a new job. We would need to go church shopping again. But the hardest pill to swallow was leaving our current church family and friends, particularly this couple.

We struggled for months, wondering, doubting, and second guessing ourselves. Were we just making this up? What if we were wrong? It would mean giving up so much for no good reason! We talked with lots of people about their own journeys. Talking to God became, in a way, both painful and satiating. I would bring up the topic again and again. Sometimes it seemed as though He answered directly in thoughts, Bible passages, or friends? words. Sometimes there would be silence. Always though there was a peace that, whatever our decision, we wouldn?t be abandoned.

Little things would pop up in the oddest places. In the car one afternoon, waiting for the lights to change, I questioned God one more time. What?s going on? What do You want here? Looking at the freeway on ramp, I was reminded that we were on a journey, and sometimes, we?re not really sure where the road is going to take us. Sometimes we just need to head down it and see if it?s the right one.

So, we made the decision to return to Australia, and to trust that the move would be the right one. It was as though the decision could?ve been made either way; the choice was between good and better. I don?t believe we were forced or manipulated, but God knew what the best thing for us was, and was asking us to trust him. In so many ways we didn?t like it, and we certainly didn?t understand it. It was very painful. As one of our friends said, we were now walking the walk, not just talking the talk.

For three months we met with people to say good bye. We started with the easy ones, those important to us but not emotionally close. Slowly we worked ourselves to the closest friends, the ones whom it would be most painful to leave.

The last two weeks were hell. Constantly in tears, we were emotionally wrecked and the reality of what was about to happen hung over our heads as a rocky outcrop ready to collapse under its own weight. We felt blank, empty, like a bucket with a hole in the bottom, and the last of the water finally, slowly, dripping away. We didn?t want the times with close friends to come, and when they came, we didn?t want them to stop. The last dinner, the night before we got on the plane, was with Zo? and her husband. This is the hardest thing I have ever done, I remember thinking. Even then we cried out to God wondering what on earth was going on. Why was He asking us to go through so much pain?

It took a month to find a place to live, two months to find a church and three months for my wife to find work. All the while we were only just surviving financially or emotionally. We were certainly not on top of the world. Each day I had to remind myself of God, and to trust that He knew what He was doing. Despite the pain of adjustment I was not going to let myself be overcome by confusion and sorrow. I tried desperately to stay focused on God even when work did not materialise for me, when old friendships we counted on evaporated, or when it was hard to adjust to a new church.

We met one afternoon with one of our new pastors. We sat in the dimly lit living room of our hot rental house. After listening patiently as we described the turmoil we had been through, he said to us, ?It?s very difficult to know the will of God. You?ve tried hard to discern and know what God wants in your life, and then to follow that. You?ve come out here on a promise, not a whim. Even if this isn?t what God wanted I?m sure He will honour your faithfulness.? He also asked us not to look at the situation, but to search for how God wanted us to change through being in the situation. It?s not about God pulling strings for us, but allowing Him to use this to teach us more about Him, and about ourselves.

After four months of trying to find work (I?m a computer programmer) I was desperate. I virtually yelled and swore at God. What is going on? Why are you leaving us? What about the promise? I was prepared to do just about anything simply to bring money into the house, so I started cleaning building sites for cash in hand. One week I had two interviews: one to stock shelves at night at the local the supermarket, and one for an IT position. Whilst I felt positive of getting either (and my preference was obvious) my own confidence had let me astray before.

We?ve been two and half years in Australia. We helped form a new home group, and the people we joined shared similar experiences. We?ve talked and supported each other now in everything from bereavement to new children. However, the adjustment isn?t over yet, not by a long shot. Perhaps it never will be. In many ways we?re only just getting on top of things. We?ve been totally out of our depth and through it all we?ve had to constantly remind ourselves to rely on God. Sometimes I still wonder if we made the right choice, but mostly I think it doesn?t really matter. We?re confident that God knows what he?s doing, and slowly, He?s asking us to leave what we know and depend on, and return to Him.

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