Ruth left her home willingly because of her relationship with her mother-in-law; Esther wasn’t given a choice. David left his home through circumstances that led to the throne; Jesus left His to live humbly among people. Abraham was told by God to leave the only life he’d known; Paul was sent out by the Holy Spirit to be a missionary. According to the Bible, they all left what was comfortable to them to play their part in God’s bigger plan.
I didn’t ask God to let me live somewhere else other than my country. It’s the place where I’ve experienced the deepest hurts of my life; and it is also the place of my greatest joys. Even after being gone all these years, I am still in sync with the rhythms of life there, our celebrations, the ways we break up the year in seasons and patterns. The lovely breezes of March, stunning beauty of May, long awaited rains of June, river and sea expeditions during the summer, celebrations all September long, and the cooling of temperatures in what others call the winter months.
I’ve seen so many nooks and crannies of the Jewel, experienced her beauty as I chased sunrises and sunsets, sailed her waters, climbed Maya Temples, and basked in her sea breezes. I’ve welcomed in the warmth of our people, the diversity that is everywhere, our smiles and laughter, and the undeniable wicked sense of humor.
I miss hearing my language spoken everywhere; and even though I now speak English in every conversation outside of my home, my thoughts still come together in Kriol. I sum up whole situations in one Kriol word or phrase, because this language helped to form me.
Why would I ever ask to leave this life that filled me up? If it were left up to me to decide what to do with the rest of my life, I would have chosen to spend it in that land we call The Jewel; but when I became a Christian I walked into a different way of living, a different purpose. I finally understand that God truly might ask anyone who follows Him to leave where they are comfortable to go fulfill the purpose He has for them.
Because He does ask hard things of those who love, trust, and obey Him. He wants us to travel light, and not hold onto things too tightly, lest anything might become an idol we place to be of more importance in our lives than He is. His eyes are looking all over the earth for those whose hearts are fixed on Him (2 Chronicles16:9). He wants the fully committed, not the fainthearted or double minded; people who are all in, who will go or leave when He asks them to do so.
To get me where He wanted me to go, to learn the things I needed to learn, meet the people who would help to shape me, help the people He wanted me to help, and have the experiences He wanted me to have, He walked with me through one step at a time away from home. With each step I kept my hand in His and obeyed Him to the best of my ability and strength, all the while growing, stepping out of my comfort zone, and continuing to treasure the memories of my beautiful Belize deep in my heart.
Whenever I ponder what my life would be like if I had stayed there. I think of all the people I would have missed out on in this country and it’s an unbearable thought. But I also know that we can hold two opposite emotions in balance and tension at the same time, so while I’m grateful for all the people in my life now and for all the blessings we have been given, I can also picture myself in shorts and a tank top, enjoying the familiarity of our fruits and traditions: eating a blue mango, watching a twelve o’ clock prickle close up as I touch with with my toes, just before I reach down to pick culantro right out of the ground to put in my pot of beans. I think of being close to family, and being there every year for Ruta Maya, Agric, Cross Country and people’s BBQ and food sales.
As I’ve prayed this statement repeatedly: “I never prayed for a life outside of my country”, God has been so gentle and understanding in handling the tug of war inside me. On the one hand He’s filled me with such gratitude for what this entire experience away from Belize has been, and for the ways He continues to bless us; and on the other, He’s let me know that He understands what these thoughts and feelings; because Jesus left His beautiful eternal home to come to earth for a time, He has an intimate knowledge of what this feels like. He’s shown me that every obedient step I’ve taken haven’t been steps away from my home, as much as they are steps towards the goal He’s set for me.
I make known the end from the beginning,
from ancient times, what is still to come.
I say, ‘My purpose will stand,
and I will do all that I please.’
From the east I summon a bird of prey;
from a far-off land, a man to fulfill my purpose.
What I have said, that I will bring about;
what I have planned, that I will do. (Isaiah 46:10-11 NIV)
Jesus’ last words to His disciples included the command, “Go!” Often God does summon someone from a place they love very much to go out and fulfill His purpose. We read/hear about their great acts of faith, but not about whatever longing they may have experienced for the lives they left behind.
He trusts His people with purpose outside of their comfort zones. He can change the desires of our hearts from wanting only to be comfortable to wanting to be fully in His will. Our hearts can be filled with gratitude for the country where He allowed us to be born, while we balance that with the fact that He comes first in our lives. God is our true home, and the center of His will is the only place we truly want to be. We honor Him by being obedient to go where He sends us and do our best to make the most out of where He’s planted us, believing that He will do the rest, and that none of the leaving is in vain.
Ⓒ Debbie Mendoza, May 2022