As I write, I’m hovering somewhere over the Atlantic, sitting next to my daughter. In a few hours, we’ll land at our first stop in Europe. For the next 10 days, we’re collecting our belongings from our former life abroad, saying goodbye to the places that matter most, and spending time with people we love.
We’re closing the door as best we can, in other words—18 months later than we wanted, of course, but it’s better than nothing. For us, it was worth the money and the time spent to travel this month, spending time together and reflecting on what once was.
I haven’t shared this too much here, but our return to the States was quite sudden. We traveled to the U.S. with return tickets for a month later—we thought we were only visiting last March, in other words, and then we would be heading back to our apartment and life and, well, everything we knew. My son was born there, and my daughter had lived there since she was two. It was home to them.
The reasons we returned aren’t important in this post, because my focus right now is on closure. I’ve had plenty of time to percolate our sudden relocation this past year as we’ve slowly adapted back to American life, complete with playmates and drive-thrus and SUVs.
Last summer, we went to a workshop that helped us debrief from our experience and to move forward. When we met with the children’s specialist to ask her how to help our children adjust, she gave us one of the best pieces of advice I’ve been given: to cut the bungee cords.
See, transitioning from one thing to another is like crossing a bridge. You’re in between two worlds, moving in one direction, and in order to make it to the other side, you need to temporarily hover over deep water, as frightening as it may seem for a bit.
The problem is when you’re tethered to a bungee cord, tied to where you left. As long as you wrap it around your waist, you’ll ricochet back, unable to really move forward. You’ll get to the other side of the bridge, only to snap back.
So we were told to release the bungee cords, and to do so by living fully and completely, wherever we are. Not ignoring the past, but not wishing we were there, either. And also not pretending like the here and now is a waiting room for the next gig; that God has us where we are to be fully there, all of us in every way.
To live fully present is to give thanks for the past (no matter how dark), say goodbye to what once was, and to move forward, without wishing we were miles down the road. To enjoy the view where we are, and to live fully there.
So these ten days traveling are about cutting our bungee cords. It’s not to pretend the past didn’t happen; rather, it’s to say thanks, say goodbye in the most tangible and literal of ways, and move on with where God has us now.
This is true for each of us, whether we’re living in a new country or watching our kids grow up. As much as we might long for the past, wishing we were back there won’t make it happen. What’s more, when we do that, we’re missing out on the present, what’s around us right now.
Saying goodbye is painful. We’ve shed tears this week, and I’m sure we’ll share more. But it’s the healthiest way for us to move on with where God has us now, and it’ll help us prepare well for whatever waits in the future.
I’m thankful for our experience and for the path we’re on. Moving on is the best way I can journey forward and be “all there,” wherever there is.
What about you? Are you needing to say goodbye to something? Are you on a transition bridge?