I left home ten years ago. If you had asked me, then, if I would miss Windsor, NC (where I went), I would have probably given you a resounding “No” for an answer. That took a U-turn—albeit slowly—without warning. I cried flying out of North Carolina on our way to Idaho (eventually to Thailand) realizing that I was again leaving home. My time in Windsor brought me delight and the kind of intimacy with Jesus that I would have never otherwise experienced if I had tarried where I was.
Now I am living in my third “home” province and have been to nine countries so far. While my wanderings exposed my mind to myriad perspectives about religion and culture, they chiefly broadened and deepened my relationship with Jesus. I have learned so much about Him while living as a foreigner for about a third of my life. Some lessons I learned the hard way; some lessons I learned by sitting at the feet of those who closely walks (or walked) with Jesus.
People I met, from all walks of life, have shown me the breadth and depth of Jesus’ beauty and strength. It’s fascinating to witness how insanely good our Creator is as He reflects Himself through hues of humanity. He is definitely not a one-note God.
Jesus—I discovered in my travels—is considerably more than I had initially thought Him to be. Here are some of those pleasant discoveries.
Jesus is generous
This may appear obvious to many, yet it wasn’t to me. God’s generosity only became apparent to my oblivious self during my second year in Windsor. I was a mess; all I really wanted was to go home and never come back. A couple, whom I have come to one day love as family, not only invited me and my roommate to join them for brunch (an intimate family occasion) one Christmas Day, they also sent us off to our trip back home in the summer of the following year with a gift that we needed. We never mentioned this need to them. Somehow, they just knew they had to give it. God’s stamp was, without a doubt, all over that act.
I have had escapades of Him showing up in the most unlikely people and in the most improbable places to illustrate to me that I can never outgive Him.
Those expressions of love subsequently opened my eyes to His constant generosity in my life. (I looked back and saw His thumbprint everywhere in my journey. He had always been there for me even though I had never acknowledged Him.) I became more conscious of His love and generosity as He daily demonstrates them, sometimes in seemingly ordinary ways, other times in plain miraculous interventions; nevertheless, He always intends to show His true nature—His goodness—to me. Oh, the stories I have of His generosity are too many; space I have for this post would not suffice. Daily, Jason and I lean on it; daily, He has never failed us.
We live on support as we serve here in Thailand, and for the past four years we have never been in want. It was scary for me to go full-time in the mission field relying solely on God for our day-to-day needs. Still when He told me to go, and I went, I have had escapades of Him showing up in the most unlikely people and in the most improbable places to illustrate to me that I can never outgive Him. He always comes back with something bigger and better to flood my life with. (And by that, I mean not necessarily in the world’s standards.) Jesus is simply generous.
Jesus hurts. He does. Except He doesn’t harm. I am not saying this to generate drama, but I am saying this because I have personally lived through it a few times. I did not exactly anticipate to change much when I left home. Boy, was I mistaken. I am mulish, hence living as a foreigner was like a wrestling match. God had to break me to weed out layers and layers of lies that were thick in my soul.
My separation from family and friends brought about heart ‘surgeries’ that dismantled my outlook of life and Him. I had destructive relationships that if not for God I would have been destroyed from. Of course, I resisted much of what He was doing in my life. Surprise, surprise. I was in the middle of a tug-o-war with Him. God, though, wasn’t letting me be. He gradually smashed those disastrous relationships and ripped out of me toxic old habits, hurting me tremendously in the process, but rescuing and healing me at the same time. I know that’s hard to understand; I don’t always get His ways. I just knew He was saving me from myself.
He desires for me to live in the freedom of being His daughter and to breathe in and out His abundant love.
The pain I had gone through were beyond me. I had been undone and emptied out. I thought I wouldn’t make it out of those tough times. Yet here I am: broken but whole, empty but full, wrecked but restored in Him.
God knew what I truly needed. I needed Him above all. He wanted me to want Him above all. There was so much I was missing out on because I was blind to that truth.
It may seem cruel of Him for allowing those calamities in my life, but He loves me too much to let me go on destroying myself. I have come to taste and see that the Lord is good. He desires for me to live in the freedom of being His daughter and to breathe in and out His abundant love. From where I am standing now, I covet nothing more than for that to become a daily reality in my life even if it means He has to hurt me one more time.
Jesus wants me to enjoy Him
To me, God was a distant Being who reminded me not to break the rules or who I can try to please so He grants my petitions. It was difficult to see savoring life and God on the same side. They seem to always be on opposite ends of the spectrum. In my perspective: If you are enjoying life, you must be away from God; if you are totally all about God, you must be miserable—pressured to behave as good as possible.
Needless to say, I had a barren devotion for Jesus. I was religious (the operative word); I went to church Sunday after Sunday. In fact, I even went to church on Wednesdays only so I can add more points to my religiosity, and hopefully He grants me my yearnings fast. Ha! The activities I was doing for Him were a burden, which I also had to pretend they weren’t. Yet I had always felt that something was missing: This couldn’t be all there is with Jesus.
Jesus is never about religion. He is about having a relationship with us.
Leaving home caused me deep grief almost like someone dear to me died. (Perhaps, someone beloved to me did die—myself.) I would even venture to say that I was battling a case of depression. I would wake up in the morning and feel like the world was on my back. I would look outside my window and see nothing but darkness.
A deep hunger for Him welled up in me during this period that I couldn’t disregard. I started spending more and more time studying the Bible, digging and searching for more of Him, and praying either by myself or with other believers (generally with my roommates and other women in the neighborhood). Genuine excitement and enjoyment for the times of prayer and learning the Word spread like wildfire in my whole being. I couldn’t get enough of God. Then His voice became clearer and clearer in my life.
At dawn one day, I felt the urge to go out of our rented house into our front lawn and to lift my hand up to Jesus and pray. I remember tasting profound joy; I remember sensing Him; I remember savoring His Presence. This was the beginning of my real relationship with Jesus fully grasping that He had always wanted one with me.
Jesus is never about religion. He is about having a relationship with us. He wants us to take pleasure in Him. He wants us to enjoy Him. It was in a foreign land that I learned this truth; it is in a foreign land that I continue to experience this truth as He daily affirms it in all my encounters.
I am barely scratching the surface of who Jesus is on this post. I know I have a lot more to uncover about His character. I dreaded living far away from home in my beginning years of travel. But I now look forward to wandering and witnessing more of who He is as I explore the world—meeting individuals who are nothing alike yet exuding so much of His image; I now look forward to taking a glimpse of Heaven as I dive in on the vastness of His love mirrored through His people.
Come and join me on this adventure of living life to the fullest in Jesus and in His unending grace!
So, how about you: What have you learned about Jesus as you grew more in your relationship with Him?
September 17, 2015
2 thoughts on “What I Learned About Jesus While Living Abroad”
You have been such a brave young girl. I’m so thankful to have had a relationship with you. My six years as a widow have taught me so much about a close relationship with God. He makes us strong in our weakness.
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He certainly does! Such a blessing to be His child. You and Seaton have taught me so much about Jesus. 😉