Have you ever done something big in your life? I mean something extremely disruptive. Something that completely changed your way of life, your schedule, and your surroundings.
We’ve all done these things: we’ve taken a new job, started college, became a parent, moved to a new city or country.
The key is: What did you learn from these experiences?
Learn with me
My family and I moved from a little (population 20,000) city called Orange, TX to the larger (population 150,000) international town of Heidelberg, Germany in April of 2015 as Missionary Associates (imagine missionaries on long-term training). You can read “Our Story” to see how God called us to Germany and led us the whole way.
As I sat and reflected over our first 6 months in Germany, I realized that my life had changed dramatically, almost as dramatically as when our son was born!
The 5 things I’ve learned from moving to a new country
1. Comfort creates laziness
This one was the easiest for me to recognize. Living in the United States my entire life had made me comfortable and I didn’t even realize it.
*Disclaimer: I don’t mean to say that comfortability is a bad thing. I simply mean to state that the negative effect it can have by leading us to settle.
I had begun to settle in my little American bubble. Everyday tasks were easy and mundane, but comforting. My desire to experience new things and pursue life was growing cold. Why? Because life was easy. Too easy. Life was good but unfulfilling at times, leaving me to wonder where this laziness and desire for more was coming from.
Moving opened my eyes and forced me to come alive again. My comfort was shattered, in a good way.
2. Relationships take time
This one took a little longer to notice. Before leaving the country, we were surrounded by friends and family. Meetings, events, birthday parties, etc filled our schedule. We enjoyed the interaction and didn’t even consider that these would cease when we left.
And they did.
We moved, following the direction God was showing us, yet we slowly began to feel an emptiness. Not a spiritual emptiness. It was an emotional and relational emptiness.
We were blessed to step into a situation where we had a small group of friends and a church family to join, but it still wasn’t easy.
Relationships take time. Friendships are formed through meetings, spending time together. They grow and mature as life happen…over time.
3. Diversity is beautiful
There’s nothing quite like spending a substantial amount of time in a foreign city. You quickly identify the differences from your culture, giving you a renewed appreciation for your own culture. Yet you discover the beauty of the new culture as you slowly learn why it is different.
A German is a German. There’s just something about them. It runs deeper than mannerisms and fashion. In our increasingly global society, a native still holds something unique. I see their faces every day and wonder, with thankfulness in my heart, how I ever lived without this experience.
4. The journey isn’t the goal
Traveling isn’t the goal. Escaping your current situation isn’t the goal. Life is the goal.
This can be hard to see at first. The exotic nature of leaving your homeland for an extended time is daring and exciting. Becoming focused on the journey is a trap that can too easily ensnare us, robbing us of the beauty of discovering life.
When we first left the United States, I naively thought that getting to Germany was the goal. Living in a German apartment was cool. Shopping at a German supermarket was a novelty. I was seeking life but settling for adventure. Thankfully, 6 months in a new environment has helped me to appreciate the true beauty of the moment, not the journey.
5. You can’t take for granted that you are communicating
As an American with limited experience outside of the United States, I took for granted that communication is easy.
I never had to worry that a friend wouldn’t understand a word I was saying.
I never had to slow down my speaking so that a friend learning English as a third language could hear my words clearly.
Now it’s a daily battle. Answering the phone in the church office is now a nervous experience. And I’m thankful every time it happens.
This is a powerful lesson for all communicators and this insight is a gift I cherish. Who would’ve thought that moving to a new country could make you a better communicator!
Start a conversation
So what are some things that you’ve learned from a life-changing event? I would love to get your thoughts! Feel free to comment below, start a conversation on social media, or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.