The sounds of bicycle bells, car horns, and rickshaw motors are my constant companion. They intermingle with the clanging of construction in a city that always seems to be expanding and the Call to Prayer five times a day reminds us that we are in an unfamiliar place. As foreign as these things feel, these aren’t the reasons I feel out of sorts.
It’s more that I don’t know how to dwell in this place: this not yet, the in between. You’d think I would be accustomed to it by now. We moved out of our house nearly three months ago and lived with friends. We settled into a borrowed home and a new routine just in time to pack up again. We’ve been living out of suitcases for a couple weeks now: first in my parent’s house in the States and now with friends in our new home country.
Everyone asks how we’re getting settled in here after a few days here. Settling isn’t the right word. Not yet. We are learning our surroundings and how to get around but we are still living as guests. Someone else is shopping and cooking for us, cleaning up after us. Once we get our own apartment then I think we’ll start to understand just how lost we are in this place. Already I feel like a baby, so dependent on others for translation of the language, for interpretation of a culture that is so deeply different than my own, for my food, and for our schedule.
As we got ready to move and I dealt with the unknown that lies ahead, I turned often to the words in Exodus. I identified with the Israelites as they stepped out on newly dry land, trusting God to keep the waves from crashing down upon them. I guess I shouldn’t be surprised that I now feel like those same wanderers as they stumbled around in the uncertainty of the wilderness.
Reading the books of Moses, we have the hindsight to know that the Hebrews would spend forty years wandering. But as they journeyed they lived with total uncertainty, never knowing when they would feel settled, would have a true home. I wonder if some made their home in the in-between while others stopped living while they waited for the Promised Land? Certainly, life went on there in the wilderness. Babies were born and others left this life behind. People married and worshipped and lived their lives all while they were in the not yet of their sojourning.
I think I am looking for an arrival but I want to look instead for how life happens in all the places we are. Living doesn’t stop in these shaky middle places. Relationships, jobs, homes, health—all these things can keep us in this waiting place where we aren’t sure how to dwell in the place between bondage and the land flowing with milk and honey. I think it’s when we choose to reside in these places, instead of resisting them, that our soul finds deeper places.
“Only take care, and keep your soul diligently,” Moses told the people in the wilderness (Deuteronomy 4:9), “lest you forget the things that your eyes have seen, and lest they depart from your heart all the days of your life.”
I put on another borrowed local outfit, noticing that the fit is a little off. But I wrap the scarf around my shoulders anyway and smile as I notice how the turquoise is just the shade of my favorite color. I itch to feel like I have a purpose as the empty space of the morning opens before me. I don’t have anywhere to be until afternoon. So I slowly sip cool water as the fan keeps the warm tropical air at bay. I write in my journal of what I have noticed, of all the things I’ve been able to take the time to see in this slower pace of our arrival and not yet settling. I ask God to open my eyes in these days to notice where He is present when I feel so lost. I remind myself that it’s in the mystery of the wilderness, after all, that we find our way home.