When people find out that we're moving to Romania, they often ask "how do you feel about that?" Sometimes they impose their own feelings onto us, "you must be excited!" Or, "Aren't you scared to move your family overseas with the way the world is going?" And my favorite, "How do your parents feel? Are they sad?" At other times, the thought of uprooting one's family and moving to a foreign culture is inconceivable and individuals have no idea what to think. The thought of even considering moving all of one's family and possessions overseas is... completely foreign. I'm not typically the best person to ask this question as I've never been too good at putting my finger on my specific emotions. But as our time Stateside draws to an end, I think I'm figuring out a little bit more what this whole experience feels like. It feels like death.
Death also seems inevitable as we think about our peripheral relationships. Friends, acquaintances, and the church body with whom we have worshipped will all lessen in influence as we go our separate ways. This is not at all blaming any party for the distance that will grow in our hearts in proportion to our geographical separation. It's just the way things are. There's a death that comes in our relationships, as distance rarely does make the heart grow fonder. We know that moving overseas will induce the death of many of our relationships.
We are also experiencing the death of dreams. Going to Romania is certainly the fulfillment of a dream, as Catalina and I have both desired to pursue missions for quite some time. But there's an alternate life in which we've had dreams as well. The American dream to work your 30 years, build up a great retirement, and live comfortably is ending. We could have a great retirement about twenty years from now through the school system if we stayed here in Georgia, but we are choosing not to invest in that as we head overseas. As we sell our nice house, leave our good paying jobs, sell our material possessions, and move out of a safe and comfortable community, one path of opportunity and one set of dreams is ending. We are experiencing the death of a particular lifestyle and life path.
And then there is the experience of death itself. Last year, my grandfather died. He was the first of my four grandparents to taste death. I have been extremely blessed to know all of my grandparents well, and to have had both Elin and Atticus meet all four of their great grandparents on my side. As we prepare to head overseas, we know that death will come to some of our family and friends while we are gone and we will have to mourn from a distance. To know that we have already seen some of our friends and family for the last time is a rather sad thing. "Goodbyes" have always been "until we meet agains." But now some of them truly are "goodbye." We know, of course, that any instance with another could be our last, but we know that this is truly our final goodbye with some. Leaving the country for three to four years at a time makes this a near absolute certainty.
Tangibly, our departure feels like death. The physical presence with friends, our material goods, our physical pleasures, and our social comforts all seem to be going the way of death - or at least they are being significantly diminished. But in a much less tangible, yet more substantive way, our new embarkation seems like life. We may be leaving friends, but we are going to a place where we know no one and everyone is a potential friend. The canvas is blank and the palette diverse. We may be leaving the security of a cushy 30 year retirement, but we are learning to trust in God more and more each day. The former can always be taken from us but the latter never can. We may be selling physical items that embody our heritage and legacy, but we are carrying on and building a legacy in the story of our lives - something that cannot be destroyed and something that will follow us wherever we go.
As we prepare to say goodbye to some of our loved ones for what may be the very last time, I'm encouraged by the life and death juxtaposition I've experienced. I've come to see my death to things anew. The temporal actions of selling possessions or leaving friends and family was really a catalyst for me to experience intangible and eternal truths. This seems akin to the story where Jesus talks about the necessity of a seed falling to the earth and dying before it can sprout life. We daily need to experience death - especially a death to self - before we can experience life. God has blessed us in this whole moving process to grant us a thousand deaths, as we now feel ten thousand times more alive. I am encouraged that I don't have to hang on to deteriorating possessions. I have a legacy that lasts. I'm also comforted to know that I don't have to hang on to the physical presence of my loved ones who may die before we return. Just as a wooden bassinet carved by my great grandfather's hand doesn't really hold a legacy, neither does the corporeal flesh house the legacy of my loved ones. I know that our father who has carved our story has done so in tangible, finite flesh, but will one day redeem that corporeal flesh. Until then, our stories are here housed safely and interned in our souls, held in the Father's hands until they are made perfect and complete in Christ.