“Grief is a funny thing,” she used to tell me. “It’s unpredictable. It makes you do weird things even when you think you’re ready for it.”
I thought I was ready, and I told her so as we walked down the peaceful night street. She just looked at me and said simply, “Okay.” And then we walked in silence down the usually bustling road, taking in the yellow street lamps and the few cars zooming along by.
I knew what she meant to an extent. I would miss things more than I thought I would. I never knew what I loved until it was gone, but at the same time, the things I did know I love somehow tended to be easier to let go of.
Well, I said my goodbyes. Goodbye to those overgrown childhood places. Goodbye to the streets and the food. Goodbye to all the people who love me, whom I love. Goodbye, goodbye, goodbye. But it’s funny how it hurt more a few months ago than it does now. Maybe I’m too numb, but on this plane away from home, the tears won’t fall, and neither do I wish for them to. I knew I wasn’t fully prepared. It irks me to know that I’ve said so many goodbyes and am still so terrible at saying them.
We spend four days in Korea before moving fully back. And for this time, I don’t think about it, either. I don’t think about how all my belongings are stowed away in two suitcases. I don’t think about how I won’t see most of those people again in this life. No, I don’t think at all, because I made a promise not to shed a tear until it was official. It’s not official yet. So we just walk around, and we eat, and the inside feels empty and dead, but the outside is laughing like it said it would. And instead of hating that place before I left it, I hate Korea instead, and I hate the people in it. I envy them because they belong when I can’t. Because they feel at home and I don’t. Which is silly, I know, but grief is a funny thing.
Time flies. We step on another plane. A long flight. I throw up, and reflexive tears are squeezed out, but the inside is still asleep. I listen to music, and it’s my music from back there. But there’s still no reaction. And there’s none when we land. When we drive around. When we’re here for days, staring at the great sky, hearing English all around, seeing foreign-looking people surround us. It’s funny because they think I’m like them, but I’m not, and I don’t want to be. This is the one place I don’t want to fit in. This is the one place I have the best chance, but I want to throw it away. I want to speak another language. I want to be home again, but they think this is home. They don’t know anything. They only speak English, and the man at the airport who snaps at these foreigners makes me angry, really angry, because how would he feel being thrown in a place where he doesn’t know the language, and being yelled at by this impatient person who has clearly not felt as alienated as they look?
But today it’s finally hitting me, even if it’s only gradual. I want to scream. I want to cry. But it’s just numb inside; we’re busy; I want to disappear. I want to go home, but even that isn’t fully home. I want my friends back. I want my community back. I want my streets and culture and food and lifestyle back.
I hate America. And the worst part is how none of this includes God, or prayer, or thanksgiving. Before I marvelled at the fact that He would be here through all of this; that He was omnipresent and was the only One who would never leave me for good. And He didn’t leave. I left everyone else behind, and at the same time, it feels like I left Him behind, too. I wanted my home back. I was angry that I had to leave it and everyone else behind, and I still am. But I’ve been focusing on the wrong things all along, letting the grief turn my sight inwards when I should have been looking upwards and clinging on for dear life.
Dear life! You haven’t been treated as very dear lately, have you? You haven’t been able to enjoy the vastness of breathtaking skies and sound sleep and music, have you? The grief has twisted you up inside, but He’s here to fix that. He is and has been and will be. He’s here to wipe the tears you sob into your pillow and sleeve, to remind you that the place you left was never home in the first place, to remind you that you were an alien on this planet all along, and that the people you love and the people you left are all going to be in your true home some day.
Take heart! Your enemy is not flesh and blood, not the people around you, but against the dark forces of this world that have been deceiving you all this time. You don’t have to cry or fight on your own. You don’t have to sit in your corner because you want to pity yourself. Stand up, child, and remember who you are, but more importantly, remember who He is. Remember He is good no matter what your circumstances are. Remember He’s brought you this far and that He isn’t quite finished with you yet.
All these people were still living by faith when they died. They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance, admitting that they were foreigners and strangers on earth. People who say such things show that they are looking for a country of their own. If they had been thinking of the country they had left, they would have had opportunity to return. Instead, they were longing for a better country—a heavenly one.Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them.