This summer, after my first semester of teaching in Mexico, has been so refreshing while reflecting back on these past 6 months. Typically, I’m a slow processor and usually things piece together and make sense to me once I’m actually out of the situation and able to look back and see the bigger picture of what God has been trying to show me over time. Looking back on this semester, I think it’s easy to say that everyone, no matter who you are and what you’re walking into, always has some kinds of expectations of what something is going to be like. You paint a picture in your head and you immediately assign these things to friends, work, church…you name it.
If you would have asked me before moving if I had any expectations of what moving to Mexico was going to be like, what teaching was going to look like, and if I would miss the United States, I would have told you something like, “Nope. No expectations. I’ll miss my people, absolutely, but I’m so excited, I doubt that I’ll really miss the States. I’ve said my goodbyes well and I’ve been waiting forever to move. I’m just ready.” Reflecting back, a lot of my struggles ended up coming from unmet and unrealistic expectations that I came up with on my own without even realizing it.
One thing I was expecting that I wouldn’t have been quick to admit before, was that I was expecting Puerto to feel like home. Looking from the outside in I felt like I already had a community set up that I would be able to just walk into, the “perfect teaching job” laid out in front of me, and beaches that would make me never want to go back to the cornfields of Ohio (funny because I joked all the time about what I would have given to blast my country music in my car driving through fields and fields of corn). Of course, you and I know that there’s such a thing as “Instagram” vs. “reality,” and that community and relationships take time to build and form. For whatever reason, I just had this picture that Puerto was going to immediately feel like home. But let me tell ya, as soon as that first wave of heat hit me square in the face when I walked off the plane and stepped onto the hot pavement below, after riding in the back of the car from the airport to my apartment and staring out the window to my new home, surrounded by people I just met and hardly knew, reality began to settle in. Honestly, I never felt so lost, confused, out of place, and overwhelmed. Where was I and what in the world did I just get myself into. In time, YES community grew, relationships formed, and I’ve never felt SO welcomed into a community of people before. In time, things began to feel a little more familiar and a little more normal to me. And in time, it was sweet and I began to develop a deep, deep love for the people and for Puerto.
However, I spent so much time dwelling in my selfishness, craving to be back “home” where I felt comfortable, safe, and had a sense of familiarity and convenience that I so often failed to see what was right here in front of me; where God intended for me to be all along. I missed friends who were like sisters to me and a community that I prayed for years to have and then only to leave shortly after. Once I finally got back to the states and reunited with these people, it was SO sweet… but also. I still had this sense of “this just doesn’t feel like home, this doesn’t feel normal anymore.” Something was still missing. During my drive to Ohio from Virginia, it finally clicked. I’ve been trying so hard to make this world feel like my home and to be the glue that holds relationships together in a world that is ever-changing. I’ve been holding ever so tightly to expectations that just needed to die and be surrendered to Jesus.
In Philippians, we’re reminded that whatever we gain, we count it all as loss for the sake of Christ. That nothing surpasses the value of knowing Christ. Everything I selfishly live for momentarily on this side of heaven, I count it as rubbish compared to the joy and riches of gaining Christ. I’m reminded that for me to live is Christ and to die is gain. Jesus tells us to lay down our comforts, desires, and expectations at His feet and to pick up our crosses and follow him. It would sure be a lot easier to follow Jesus if things were convenient and comfortable for us, wouldn’t it? But that’s not that life He calls his people to. That’s not the life that He has called me to. I could search the whole world to find what I’m looking for, but nothing will ever compare to the treasure I have found in Jesus. Until I see him face to face, my soul will always be longing for a place with no more suffering, no more pain, where my fears are put to ease, and where I no longer feel out of place, unfamiliar, and uncomfortable. That place is heaven. Heaven is my home.
I was reading in A.W. Tozer’s book called “Culture” that when we become Christians, our citizenship immediately switches from being citizens of earth to being pilgrims and strangers here on earth. We are now citizens with the saints and members of the household of God (Ephesians 2:19). Well, no wonder why I feel so out of place in this world. We will always be longing for a place that is simply not here in front of us. Philippians 3:20-21 says, “for our citizenship is in heaven, from which also we eagerly wait for a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ; who will transform the body of our humble state into conformity with the body of His glory, by the exertion of the power that He has even to subject all things to Himself.” Eagerly, I wait and long to be home. Until then, Jesus still has work for me to do here in my temporary home.
If you’d like to support Shelby as she serves with GEM in Mexico, you can do so HERE. You can also contact her directly to talk further about what it means to be on her support team and find out how you can be praying for her!