renewal, revisited

As referenced in my last entry, I’ve been thinking lately about renewal.

This year, I’ve experienced what I’d term renewal in several areas of my life. It has meant a return of optimism. It has meant a fresh bubbling of hope. It has meant leaving behind difficult, painful past experiences and reaching forward to new pursuits and friendships.

For me, renewal looks like this in real life. I spent two years, from summer 2006 to summer 2008, in Germany. A barrage of experiences created a wealth of memories. My mind needs only a tiny trigger to trip the hammer and fire off a blast of images, emotions, laughter, and tears. When I moved to the States and began a challenging new job last fall, I did not realize what tempest still raged inside me. For months, I cried frequently and experienced an ache and longing I’d never felt before. I longed to go back, but I knew it was not the place for me any longer. I missed the places, the language, the missionary culture. Most of all, I missed the people. Seeing a group photo of my dorm girls, much less watching one of the year-end videos my coworkers produced, could instantly prompt a fit of weeping. Part of my heart was ripped out, savagely, and the wound continued to throb and fester for a long time.

Because my departure and transition to the States was so emotional, I neglected to fully recognize what had happened. I saw only its immediate effects, like a trauma victim who is dazed, feeling only pain and seeing blurry images. Now, after many months of healing, I can look back and see the experience more clearly. I can see that I invested a lot at Black Forest Academy; very slowly, sometimes unintentionally, and then deliberately. I loved many of my dorm girls and coworkers to a great depth; I embraced them as family. No wonder, after such investment of myself, it devastated me to leave.

“Devastated” is a good word for how I felt. Although I knew life would go on, I had a hard time picturing a community or a job as fulfilling as those I found at BFA.

But after devastation came renewal. As I look backward now, not from any great height or spiritual vantage point, but still, as a more stable person, I see that God began the process as soon as I reentered the States. As I nursed my wounds and cried my tears, He began to surround me with a community of friends and family here. As I complained to Him that no one here understood what I’d been through, He showed me that there were plenty of people willing to listen to my stories. As I stumbled through the first few months and struggled in my first year of teaching, I often felt cynicism creeping close. I experienced hardship. It was difficult to see that things were getting better – but they were. I was adjusting. God was renewing me.

This fall, I’ve recognized the renewing work and seen it come to near fruition. My second year of teaching is wonderful: I love it. I’ve recently moved out on my own, with a dear friend as a roommate, and am loving the settled feeling it brings. I look around and see people to love, a community to belong to and invest in, and new opportunities to pursue. I don’t know what the future holds, or even what is around the immediate bend in the road, but I know this: that my God is a God of renewal. Restoration. Rebirth. Re-creation. He has healed wounds I once thought irreparable. He has restored hope where it was dead. He has melted away cynicism and replaced it with trust in His abundance.

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