Marc Mansfield

Reentry: Still on the Road

It's no secret I've had a rough time in reentry the past few months. I washed my clothes by hand and hung them up to dry for weeks, and I binge-watched Netflix and drank Dr Peppers by the case to make up for the time my favorite soda and I were apart.

Now, several months (and seasons of Bones) later, here I am.

Life in Waco is falling into a pleasant rhythm, and for the most part things have calmed down both externally and internally. However, every once in a while waves of grief and feelings of missing Cambodia hit me rather suddenly, like a flash flood with no forecast of rain. I'm still learning to navigate these surprise storms. Recently during one of these waves of grief, I heard a song my friend Marc wrote called "Heading Home." The song begins, "There’s a groaning, an aching in my bones/There’s a longing in my heart to find a home." As I listened, it seemed to gather up within me leftover remnants and threads of reentry--the values I've learned, the pain, the hope, and the lessons I'm still learning now--and place them in a bundle right in the center of my heart.

The lyrics didn't tie up the loose ends or weave the threads into a stunning tapestry. No, they simply brought all the frayed fibers to one place so I could see them. All of them, in their varied colors, sizes, shapes and textures, all at once. The hurts and hopes and tears and shouts, all at once.

All of them, all at once, were beautiful. I no longer felt the need to tug at this thread or change the color of that one. With all their quirkiness and shortcomings and distinct characteristics, they were beautiful.

Stock photo from Adobe

Stock photo from Adobe

While I quieted my soul and listened to this song, I realized a few things. First, even though I'm settling down into life in Waco, I'm still heading somewhere. For a woman with an unshakable travel bug coursing through her veins and wanderlust written on her heart, knowing I'm still traveling is a comforting notion. (However, I am excited for no more reentry processes when the journey ends!!)

Second, the place I'm heading is to be with Jesus in person. To have more of Jesus, to spend more time in His presence, to know Him more. This lines up with one of my greatest prayers and desires lately, which has been to want Jesus more than I want a country, and for my loyalty to be to Him and not to a culture. Home is a Person, not just a place.

Third, I realized the journey home can be beautiful in itself. A road trip by myself through the Texas countryside is one of my favorite things. More than getting to the destination, I enjoy simply driving, soaking in the landscape and praying or listening or singing until my throat hurts. I may be homesick, and reentry may be hard, and I may not truly arrive home for a while, but the journey home can still be beautiful and is uniquely qualified for enjoyment.

As I sat examining this bundle of threads and these lessons learned, I stopped struggling for a moment. Instead of trying to reconcile two very unique cultures and countries, I simply began to thank God for each lifestyle and cultural difference as it came to mind.

Thank You for the communal way of living in Cambodia, and thank you for the individuality of American people.

Thank you for rice and fish and the Mekong. Thank you for microwaves and refrigerators and ovens and pre-packaged food.

Thank you for my students in Cambodia, for the church, for the rhythm of life there; thank you for the job I have in the States, for my coworkers, for healthcare here.

I could keep going for hours, but the point is gratitude humbles me and reminds me how beautiful this world is, even with its pain and frayed edges and tangled up threads. In some way, all those worn out threads create something beautiful in their messiness. I cannot and will never be able to make sense of the disparities between countries and the heartache that hits every time I leave a country. Yet when my focus is on the Maker of cultures rather than on the cultures themselves, I find rest. I don't have to stress about reconciling the differences and similarities and roughness and tangles—because no matter what, I'm still on the road, and I'm still heading home.

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