My toes wiggled through the damp sand as I stood at the edge of the Pacific Ocean. It was finer than the sand I had always known. At least the water was warm like what I was used to. But the landscape behind me was foreign.
It was my freshman year of college. Across the vast ocean was home where my family remained while I settled into dorm life. The adventure of leaving home and being on my own didn’t take long to evaporate into the warm salty air of San Diego.
The university was situated on cliffs overlooking the ocean. I would stand and gaze out towards the horizon overwhelmed by the vastness of the separation that was at times unbearable. I wanted to go home so badly. But each time I turned around and walked back to my new world. Eventually it became home.
The hardest thing to adjust to was the size of the United States, almost 4 million square miles. The island of Okinawa where I grew up is only 464 square miles. The more I realized how big my new home was the smaller I felt inside and the smaller I got, the more lost I became.
But the one thing that helped press back the looming lostness was my new faith in Christ. My journey of navigating this country is in some ways a metaphor of my journey into the vastness of God and his love for one small person.
Each step, each move, each tear, each embrace of whatever and whomever God put in my path has enlarged my world both inner and outer. God has grown and stretched me into the space he ordained from the beginning but waited and worked patiently to fill in my 56 years.
The last 12 years have been especially trying and stretching. They were years of regaining a passion for ministry in the church, of earning a masters in theology, and of discovering and using my gifts. But they were also years of wounding, of disappointments, of being misunderstood, of resisting efforts by others to keep me small, and of being named and shamed.
It meant I had to leave two churches that I loved dearly. But I found another church and it felt like I had finally landed on a friendly shore. I was ready to engage my new community and find my niche.
Then just as I thought I was going to fill out the rest of the space God had for me, he had something else for me to do. I found out my sister had lymphoma and she needed me to be a caregiver. God had another battle for me to fight, the beginning of which I described in my last post.
Since then the events have carried me like a whirlwind to another place. Only recently have I had the time to begin processing where I have landed.
My world has become small once again. It consists of only two places, my home in Portland and my second home in Florida. There’s no other place I’d rather be as I have walked on holy ground journeying alongside my sister and her battle against cancer.
But I am on an “island” once again. I have to say no to the yearnings I feel when I stand at the edge of this new ocean and remember the land I once inhabited. I have had to put all future plans on hold. I constantly remind myself that being inwardly large is not directly proportionate to outward achievements. I struggle to believe that my value, my identity, and my gifts are intact and that God will continue to grow me whether I’m constrained on an island or roaming a continent.
For now my world is smaller but I am choosing to believe that I am not.