on moving, part 1
Eleven days—that’s the length of time from now to the day our house will be sold and empty (hopefully 😬).
By then, our suitcases for a month in Belgium should be packed. Our bags and bins to take to Ethiopia in August should be packed. Our boxes of sentimental items to store should be packed. Every closet, every drawer, every cabinet should be empty.
It’s a lot of work, and we’re in the thick of it. We had a yard sale last night and got rid of a lot, and more sales will follow to clear out the rest. During the course of this, we are touching literally everything inside our house and deciding whether it stays or goes. How much is this item worth to us? Enough to take up space in the limited numbers of bags we’ll take to Ethiopia? If not, is it special enough to take up space in a box we’ll store? If not, should we give it to a friend or put it in the sale? Lots of decisions, lots of emotions, and just plain lots to do.
It's intense, sometimes easy and productive and sometimes painfully hard. But as hard as it is, each step of this process makes me think about people God has brought into our lives who left their homes in a vastly different way.
During our time in Atlanta, we lived in a part of town where many refugees were resettled. We became friends with refugees and with people who work with them. To say we learned a lot through this would be an understatement. We learned that refugees leave their homes because their lives are at risk due to things like persecution and war. Unlike those who immigrate to another place by choice, millions of refugees are forcibly displaced every year—so many in fact, that one more person had to flee from their home for fear for their life in the time it took you to read this sentence (UNHCR).
You can find many stories online if you’re interested to learn more, but suffice it to say that often these people leave their homes with absolutely no notice, gripped with fear for their lives, sometimes in the middle of the night, sometimes with fire and flames, sometimes with gunshots, sometimes suffering profound personal injury, sometimes leaving behind the ones they love. Most people leave with only the clothes on their backs, and they are wildly fortunate if their family members are alive and with them when they flee. They then live in a place they didn’t choose with no ability to work and very little resources to replace what they left behind. Trauma, pain, loss, and a very uncertain future.
To contrast, we have chosen this move. We have chosen to leave America and move to Ethiopia. We have chosen the timing. We have money to buy luggage and plane tickets. We have time to sort through things and choose what we put in the luggage. We have family members' homes to store things we might want to keep. We have friends gathering around us to help us. We have a hefty measure of predictability, safety, control, and resources.
I’m not trying to minimize our situation—I know it’s intense. But I am trying to step back and view our situation not through the lens of suburban middle-class America, but through the lens of humanity. These are our fellow humans, made in the image of God with dignity and worth—just born in a different part of the world. And my, how different that makes our experiences of moving.
So as I put down my laptop and open the next bin of boys clothes to sort through, let me do that task not with drudgery or overwhelmedness, but with thankfulness. Thankfulness for the clothes, for the bin that holds them, for the boys who wear them, for the life we’ve been given here, and the life we’re moving towards in Ethiopia. This will be hard in different ways as these next days and weeks continue, but let me pray for my brothers and sisters around the world, and let me be thankful.