Soon, my family will be taking a short trip back to the States. During that time, we will be visiting supporting churches, seeing friends, and spending much-needed time with extended family. Although I have always enjoyed our furloughs, my heart still races at the thought of them. Every time I think of our upcoming plans, more questions force their way into my heart:
Will I feel excluded from the teens at the churches we visit? Will I be able to quickly connect with old friends or will interactions just remain awkward? Am I strong enough to go through the process of growing close to someone only to say farewell a couple of months later?
I have many doubts, but from past experiences, I know that God will help me through it. He always does. Here is some advice I have learned from the many trips back to my passport country.
1. Prepare with Prayer
Before every meeting or visit, take a deep breath and pray. No psychological preparation will help you more than simply pleading with God to give you strength and peace. Perhaps the encounter will still be awkward and slow, but speaking with the Lord can calm anxiety and relax you immensely.
A practical thing I did the last time I was in my passport country was to pick a Bible verse to think about on the long car rides before morning church services. There are many, many verses speaking on anxious thoughts that are directly applicable to our situations. One of my favorites is this one:
“Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee: because he trusteth in thee.” Isaiah 26:3 KJV
2. Give People Grace
It can often be hard to stop ourselves from feeling bitter toward the people who have wrong assumptions about places we’ve lived or who ask questions such as, “Are you enjoying being home for the summer?” Replying righteously in these instances can be very trying, I know, but looking down on people because of their ignorance and naivety is a selfish response.
Instead, I suggest stepping into their shoes and taking their point of view. Not everyone from your passport country has had the privilege of seeing all the wondrous people groups and places you have. Many have never even visited a country outside of their own, and they have been immersed in few cultures. If the roles were switched, how would I wish them to respond?
3. Do Not Fear Goodbyes
Saying goodbye to friends and family is an unavoidable part of life. Everyone, whether or not they are TCKs, is forced to see loved ones leave them at times in their lives.
Although we all have different responses to goodbyes, many people, including me, tend to close themselves off from other friends. I fear going through the same experience yet again, so I distance myself from others and form a concrete barrier guarding my heart in order to avoid the pain another goodbye will bring.
Although leaving loved ones stings, facing our fears is the only way to heal. It requires time, but I encourage you not to let past experiences stand in the way of future friendships.
The Lord may push you out of your comfort zone, but He is still with you every step of the way. Although the road may seem narrow and rocky, God will show you the path to take when reacquainting with old friends and creating new relationships. Trust Him for your peace; He will not disappoint.
"Fear thou not; for I am with thee: be not dismayed; for I am thy God: I will strengthen thee; yea, I will help thee; yea, I will uphold thee with the right hand of my righteousness." Isaiah 41:10 KJV