It is so easy to come into life with expectations, not only of yourself, but others and God. I love how Christine shares how her travels changed her expectations! Allow her learning to find you in your own travels. Christine is on the Collide team and her insight, experience, worldview and creativity are truly a gift to be opened. Enjoy reading her thoughts! -Willow
Airports, luggage, visa forms, auto rickshaws, foreign languages. Missing weddings, missing funerals, exploring, thriving, culture shocking, bartering, letting people in, letting people go… All of these things (not to mention the food) made up my life the last four years as I’ve bounced from place to place.
It wasn’t always like this; me, traveling and moving every six months. I lived a steady 26 years in Omaha, Nebraska and all of my childhood was spent in one home. I never moved. Everything was familiar. But then that all changed when God started stirring my heart to go to Bible School in New Zealand for a year. Granted, I had always wanted to live outside of Nebraska and not become what I had coined “a lifer” but that was always easier said than done. Slowly, over the course of a year, God guided me, step-by-step, to apply and then go to a new place far, far away from home. I thought that was going to be it. I thought I would have my adventure, cross off traveling from my bucket list, and then be done with it. I thought I would come back to the states and find a graphic design job and get back to the normalcy that I left behind. It wasn’t until I felt God ask “What if this is your new normal?” that I knew it wasn’t the end of my traveling. I did come home to Nebraska but only to then move to Colorado, Delhi, and Uganda.
I’m thankful for all of the traveling I’ve been able to do but even more grateful for the lessons God taught me along the way. With each move I had to confront behaviors and habits that didn’t align with who God is and who He made me to be. One of the biggest of these lessons dealt with expectations I had of God and of myself.
When I was in Denmark, visiting friends before I headed to Uganda, I went for a walk to pray and clear my head of all the anxiety I had about potentially missing my flights the next day due to the bad weather that was forecasted. The anxiety I was feeling was a familiar one. It would come up every time I had to make flight connections at international airports, or wait at baggage claim areas hoping my luggage would come through, or travel on Indian trains by myself, and the list goes on. Each time I was out of control and would pray that God made everything work out ok. That night as I walked to the corner store in Copenhagen I felt the Holy Spirit nudge me that I was putting expectations on God that He never promised. The truth is God never said He would give me pain-free travel experiences. He never said I would never get hurt, or stuck, or lose valuable items. So what DID God promise? He promised to be with me, to guide me, to comfort me, and protect me. Not FROM all pain or hurt or discomfort but in the midst of it. Once I was able to see how distorted my expectations were of God and correct them, I was able to experience more peace knowing that no matter what came my way, God was with me.
Not only did I see how I had put wrong expectations on God while traveling around the world, but I was also confronted by the wrong expectations I had put on myself. When I went overseas to India, I volunteered with a Christian NGO (non-governmental organization) doing graphic design. It was an interesting mix of missions and yet normal office work, just like in the States. I raised support to be able to do this, and received a lot of questions about the work I was doing and how it would impact the community in India I was living in. It was difficult for me to answer these questions because most of the work I was doing was “behind the scenes” of the Christian mission work in India. I was doing graphic design for an NGO that did engineering/architecture work for Christian ministries who were reaching the least reached. I was multiple layers away from the actual work of sharing the gospel with the “least of these” and felt guilty for it when I would talk to supporters back home. After being in Delhi for six months, I didn’t have any Indian friends, I wasn’t working in the slums, I didn’t love India, and didn’t feel any more close to God than I did in Nebraska. I came back for my sister’s wedding feeling discouraged when God again spoke to me about expectations but this time the ones I was putting on myself. God called me to serve the NGO that I volunteered with and to explore India. I was the one adding all these other expectations to that calling. And the funny thing was, after I let go of all that other stuff and learned to enjoy the work God called me to do in the place God called me, I was able to make Indian friends and impact my community in ways I wasn’t able to before.
God doesn’t promise us an easy life but one filled with His Spirit, but only if we allow Him to fill us. He doesn’t put heavy expectations on us to “measure up” to some ideal that we have in our head. It doesn’t matter if we’re traveling around the world or have never left home. God meets us and teaches us right where we’re at. Even as I’ve lived back in the United States for almost a year, I’ve seen this lesson of putting false expectations on God and myself come up again and again. You would think being done with the airports and language barriers, and having resources like a smart phone and car would change that but it hasn’t. In fact, learning to let go of heavy expectations I put on myself is sometimes tougher here and harder to see because of the go-go-go mentality in America. Although it’s different living back in the US, I’m excited to see what new lessons God has for me and how the lessons I learned overseas translate to this new stage.