Thirty five years ago, with my husband and two children, I climbed on a plane and moved halfway around the world to pursue God’s call on our lives. Now I have I put my daughter, husband, and two children on a plane to move halfway around the world; once again following God’s leading.
Life has a way of coming full circle.
In truth though, there is much that is different from 35 years ago, and those differences make me appreciate my own parents and my husband’s parents far more than I did at the time. Then it took three weeks for a letter to do a round trip. We had no phone and a once a year call at the phone company in the city was an extravagance.
Today I have a computer with instant access, a phone in my hand that can call around the world, and an iPod with Face time. For all the bad rap Facebook gets, that too is an instant connect with pictures and little bits of trivia. Facebook may border on banal, but in many ways the cyber community reminds me of my childhood neighborhood where everyone knew a little bit about everyone else’s business because we lived so closely together. Rising and bedtimes, who was visiting, even the color of one’s neighbor’s clothes hanging on the line – we knew it all.
Thirty five years ago, a whole group of people went to the gate with us, and my mother-in-law loaded us with a package of freshly baked cookies which we handed to fellow passengers on the bus out to the plane. This time we got special passes through security to be able to help corral kids, bags, and stroller.
Back then, in the dark ages, my in-laws took the first airplane flight of their lives to come visit us. My parents also came to visit, but they had been there before and knew where they were going. My husband’s parents had only traveled to neighboring states. They came wide-eyed and eager.
I never asked our parents if it was hard to put us on a plane, with their grandkids. I never asked them about loneliness when we were not home for Christmas. I do know that friends took them home from the airport that first night, friends who had a son in the Middle East, friends who understood loneliness and the pain of parents and grandparents.
I get asked often if it is hard to see your children move to the other side of the world. I find that question odd, as if the fact that I have done it myself somehow negates what all parent feel. Or that their return, now a second time, somehow erases the pain. Of course it is hard! The fact that I will go to see them does not make it easier, just different
But now, more than ever, I realize that it cost my parents and my husband’s parents far more than it is costing me. In my heart, and before God, I thank them for not holding us back.
What I also realize is that moving out and forward is a way of life, and it is contagious in families. I have a few letters that are well over a century old. They were written by my great-great-grandparents to my great-grandparents after the younger generation took a covered wagon from Iowa and moved west to new opportunities in Kansas territory. They are poignant reminders that the next generation is just that, the next generation.
My little grandson is old enough to get a glimpse of this, and old enough to reassure me that he’ll see us on the computer. After all, that is the way he has visited us more of his life than in person. We can have instant communication even if we now have to count time zones. We already “had breakfast” him while we ate supper, and been given a visual tour of their high-in-the-sky flat.
It is different from a generation ago, and the generations far before that, but in so many ways, it is the same. Following where God leads is the life of a pilgrim. Wherever we go, He’s already there waiting.