Oops! I fell for it again!
I have so much love for my home country! The people, the beauty of the hills and valleys and beaches and mountains, the common sense of humor underlying all major tension, the courage and strength that is ingrained in all of its members and taught to each new generation over and over again… there’s so much to love about the great American life. However, this lifestyle that is often so much easier is, in fact, a beast of its own kind that can really only survive on American soil. Many expats can testify to this truth, you can’t continue to live the American lifestyle outside of America. It just doesn’t fit anywhere else. There are many factors that can’t be duplicated anywhere else. But there’s one that seems to stick out in my life like a stubbed toe: task-oriented goals.
American are raised to set goals, make lists of tasks, and slowly mark them off one by one until you can achieve your goal…. and then set a bigger goal. This works so very well in the land of opportunity. It’s easy to find the resources you need to meet each task. It’s easy to find the motivation to continue checking off your list because that’s what everyone else is doing as well. In fact, we feel strange not setting goals and often feel “lazy” if we’re not achieving something every day. I know, because I grew up in this culture. Imagine my shock when I learned the rest of the world doesn’t work this way!
Two years… for two years now I’ve lived in South Africa. Two years ago, I was in America living a very goal-oriented life. I had even set goals for how I was going to move to SA and what I was going to accomplish while I was there. Ha! Silly girl! Like you had any control over anything. Now, two years later, I sit here in my sweet little flat watching the wind spin through the leaves and realize that my panic is rooted firmly in my recent visit home to America. In the span of six weeks furlough, I somehow caught the task-oriented bug again and brought it back to South Africa with me expecting it to flourish and grow. That’s not how this works! You’d think I’d know that after 2 years…. but I’m still learning.
“How was your trip? Are you excited to be back?” A friend’s simple voice note was enough for God to reach down into my heart and show me why I was so anxious, why I wanted to throw my phone and say, “No! I’m not excited! I’m stressed!!” His sweet voice of kindness was only asking if I was happy to be back in SA because he was happy to have me back. But my heart felt a tightening grip of American-based anxiety to perform, to achieve, to succeed. No one, on either side of “the pond” had implied that this was required of me to live here. And yet, here I am… sitting in my own, self-built mess of stress, sadness, and anxiety. Why? All because it felt wrong somehow to plan a new year without setting goals.
But in the realization of my deeply rooted struggle came the same soft whisper of a voice I had lived my life following. In the most tender wisp of a breeze I heard my Lord saying, “Just listen and obey. That’s all I’ve ever asked of you.” And with the acceptance of this, my ultimate goal, peace found it’s way back into my home and into my heart. Slowly I will loosen the grip of my future and place it back in His hands, where it rightly belongs. And slowly I will go back to walking each day one moment at a time, instead of one goal at a time. And slowly I will find my balance between these two worlds again, between eternity and the here-and-now. Slowly, He will restore my life to His order and all will be well.