“I want to go home.”
The tears weren’t streaming down my face yet, but I could feel them coming; waiting at my lids like backed up traffic. Maybe he couldn’t see them through the computer screen. My voice wasn’t quavering I don’t think, but it was full of desperation, as if he could do something about it, as if I could do something about it. But there was only silence at the other end.
I would finish my last course at the University of Jyväskylä in one week’s time. I would be finished. There was nothing left for me here. There was only my longings for home and my wish to be with my fiance. There was only the lingering of winter and the cold freezing rain that kept falling. It felt like anxiety was the only thing controlling me. Why did I feel this way? But I had almost gotten over that part of my frustration. The only thing left was the strongest desire to leave this place.
It’s not something people write about often whenever they go abroad. They don’t write about homesickness. Or maybe they do, and I just happened to miss it. They don’t write about the overwhelming feeling of hatred for where you are and the situation you seem to be stuck in. Your plane ticket back was booked months before. You’re to the point where you’re looking up how much one way flights are back. And then you bury your head in despair yet again when you read the price tag.
I remember reading in Philippians 4 that Paul knew the secret of being content in any situation. I can’t count how many times in my life where I have felt discontent. Sometimes I would think of this verse. I used to get really upset with Paul. Well, that’s easy for you to say, Paul. You’re freakin PAUL. You’re the badass apostle Paul. You’re like one of the godliest people ever. Why would things not be easy for you? I used to get really upset with a lot of people who would say that you should learn to be content in every situation.
“I don’t want to be here.”
Yeah, Paul was freakin awesome. But he sure didn’t have it easy. It took me a while in life to realize that those people that are talked about in the Bible didn’t have it easy. They weren’t extraterrestrial angelic creatures with extra superpowers just because they happened to be in the Bible. They were human just like me. They made mistakes like crazy, but God used them for amazing things. I remember how much I freaked out when this realization hit me.
“YOU MEAN, GOD CAN USE ME TOO??”
I don’t remember at what point in life this realization hit me, but every once in a while, I get hit again. Because even I can forget these things sometimes. Realizations like: I could be almost as badass as Paul. I mean, Paul was the ultimate guy. He was on a completely different path than what God wanted. He was actually persecuting God’s people. But after God blinded him and woke him out of his stupor, he was radically on fire for God. He was the one being persecuted after that. But even though Paul was arrested and whipped and beaten and thrown in jail, what did he do? He sang praises to God in a jail cell.
I’m in Finland. I’m not in a jail cell.
Even though it felt pretty crappy and lonely at that point in time, there was a huge difference between my situation and Paul’s. But even when you’re in a pretty cool country, you can still feel homesick and alone. It helps to have friends and fellow Christians who can pray with you and encourage you. Paul had a pretty awesome buddy named Silas who was with him in the jail cell. They sang praises to God together, even when the other prisoners probably thought they were crazy. Since coming to Finland I have been blessed with meeting some awesome friends and being introduced to an awesome Church and small group which has helped me immensely throughout the past few months.
After my week of being in the depths of despair, I went to my friend and small group leader’s house. We spent some time together, talked, prayed, and somehow I felt so much more refreshed. Maybe everything wasn’t perfect, but the secret to being content wasn’t having everything around you be perfect. The secret to being content is Jesus.
I rode home on my bike through the rain. The soft cool drops hit my face and I saw it clean everything around me. The snow and ice was almost gone. The rain was washing it away and bringing something new and bright into the horizon. The old was being washed away and the new was coming. Winter would soon be gone and the Spring was on its way. And I began to sing as I cycled in the rain. Everything might not be perfect, but learning to be content in imperfect situations is a part of life, no matter where you are.
Wherever you are today, whether you are in your hometown, or off on a grand adventure in places you’ve never been before, try to see the good in the bad. Try to see the perfections in the imperfections. Try to sing in the jail cells. Try to sing in the rain.