I sat in church last Sunday in my new home of Manhattan, Kansas after having moved just three days prior. My mind wandered to a moment two weeks before that, when I sat surrounded by a small congregation in West Lafayette that I had grown to love over a four year period. Knowing it was my last service before moving, the pastor called me up to the front of the congregation. He handed me the microphone and asked me to tell everyone where I was heading and why. Looking at the many faces that had become so dear to me, I had no words. Tears ran down my cheeks as I stood silent, realizing that a true sadness cannot easily be masked. Eventually I got a few words out before they prayed for me. After the service I said a few goodbyes, and snuck out before the tears returned in full force.
I drove away that morning asking myself why I let my heart fall so hard for people and places like this. The day I left my family in Senegal and also in Turkey, I was overcome with that same sadness and ample tears. It was devastating to leave families that loved me like their own, though it was quite apparent I was not linked to them by blood. As I remembered these similar situations, I was angry at myself. How did I not learn to hold back and not get too close so that I could avoid heartbreak over and over? I was also a bit frustrated with God.. Why would he take me to places and people that I would fall for and eventually have to leave?
The answers presented themselves last Sunday in church. As I sat there by myself, I realized that roughly one year before I sat in that exact same sanctuary. At the time, I was in Manhattan for 2 weeks working on my Master’s research and staying with a couple that knew my major professor at Purdue. (It just so happened that the nation’s experts on sorghum cereal chemistry were located in Kansas). I had a surprisingly wonderful time, and I came to deeply admire the family I stayed with, who had shown me so much kindness. When I drove back to Indiana at the end of those two weeks in June 2014, I left refreshed but with no idea that I was leaving a town I would later call home.
It was this second time in the Manhattan church last Sunday that God whispered, “Don’t you see? I showed you exactly where you were going. I set in place people and a town for you.. And I even gave you a taste before allowing you to experience it in its fullness”. I marvel in the splendor of it all. Perhaps the other places and people I’ve had to leave in the past will come full circle too, but it’s also quite possible that they won’t.
And this is what made me think, isn’t this all just a taste of where we are going? Of an eternal life that’s to come? When we put our lives in the context of eternity, it’s like the earth beneath our feet shifts. Everything should look different.. WE should be different. It’s okay to capture precious moments in Instagram posts or revived retro Polaroids, as long as we recognize that this is not the end of our joy. I love this quote from C.S. Lewis in Mere Christianity, and it seems more relevant these days than others.
If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world.. Probably earthly pleasures were never meant to satisfy it, but only to arouse it, to suggest the real thing. If that is so, I must take care, on the one hand, never to despise, or to be unthankful for, these earthly blessings, and on the other, never to mistake them for the something else of which they are only a kind of copy, or echo, or mirage.
What a complex balance that presents. I think that perhaps then the temporary heartbreak that accompanies transition can serve as a reminder of our earthly blessings as well as the promise that lies beyond them. How wonderful that we are children of a creator that allows to experience such beautiful people and experiences in our lives on earth, but with an even greater promise of an eternal story.
Dear friends, I wrote this several weeks ago and I just now got around to publishing! As you can see, I recently moved to Manhattan, KS to work full-time at Kansas State University on a Feed the Future grant that focuses on sustainable intensification. I am really enjoying the town and the incredibly friendly people I’m getting to know here! With that being said, I have been experiencing some random, unexplained physical pain the last few weeks.. My doctors are running tests to see if there is a medical explanation or if it’s a manifestation of stress release (thanks grad school!). In the meantime, as part of my ‘home team’, could you please pray for my body to be healed in time? I would so appreciate it! Also, after I wrote this, I was able to meet the newest member of my Senegalese family when in D.C. for some training last week. In the spirit of this post, I am so thankful for this kind of earthly blessing!