If I asked you who you were, what would you say?
Maybe that sounds weird, but it’s a question that I’ve been running through my mind a lot, lately and today, I stopped to actually think about it. You see, moving to a different country is a pretty intimidating thing. But the moving itself isn’t the hard part.
It’s having no identity once you get there.
Most people don’t really sit around wondering what their identity is. Most of the time it’s inherent. You’re a daughter because you have a mother. You’re a girlfriend because you have a boyfriend. You’re an artist because you make art. You’re an English speaker because you speak English.
But, what happens when you move away from all that?
You’re a daughter, but your mother is 8,000 miles away. You’re an artist, but you have limited supplies, resources and different mediums available. You know English, but you’re not allowed to speak it.
So the question comes up again: Who are you?
I’m the kind of person who believes that regular identity crisis are necessary and a healthy part of my life, but most of the time it’s because I find myself not knowing who I am, or what I want to do at that moment.
This experience is different.
I wouldn’t call this a crisis. I’ve spent the last year figuring out who I am and what direction I want to go in, so those aren’t issues right now. But, like in any witness protection or spy movie, by moving I have suddenly become a person without any identity to those around me.
No one knows who I am. I can walk down the street with 0% possibility of running into someone I know, or grew up with. I go to the store and they eye me warily, wondering where I came from – since they know everyone who lives in this small town.
I don’t have any favorite spots, yet. I don’t have a community, church or friends, yet. I’m a body in this city, but not yet a person.
When I was thinking about this, this morning, it really bothered me. I, like most people, like to be known. I love acknowledgement, and “words of affirmation” is my love language. – not having anyone to talk with in my native (and therefore emotionally comfortable) language makes feeling “whole” pretty difficult.
So, with my identity shifting, and my surroundings foreign, I was wondering today – what makes me…me? Who am I?
“When my identity fails – You will remain. So I will tether myself to you.”
The nearest (non-catholic) church is more than an hour away from where I live, so I’ve been streaming some sermons while going to the Catholic one down the street. It’s an unconvential way of “doing church”, but I’ve never been very good at claiming the conventional, anyway.
Today I was listening to a sermon about anchoring your soul – or having something that grounds you. The pastor was talking about how, to some people, this anchor might be material, and to others it might be another person (such a spouse)…but, the problem is, those things aren’t going to be able to help you when you’re “four inches from sinking.” The first because, being soulless, it can’t relate to your problem, and the latter because they are as broken as we are.
This week I have felt like the top of my boat is four inches from the waves (aka me losing my mind); with too much weight gathered within its structure, my boat is about four inches from being filled and slipping beneath the water: four inches from disaster. Sometimes I feel like I’m just staring at the side of the boat hoping and praying that no bigger waves come and pull me under.
Now, don’t get me wrong. I am confident in my decision to move to France, and I have complete peace about where I am right now. But it’s not easy jumping into a family of strangers, working every day and trying desperately to understand 100% of a foreign language when you have about 80% comprehension (80 sounds like a lot, but try reading a book with 80% of each sentence).
Sometimes I find myself praying out loud because I’m so frustrated with circumstances. Like dogs getting diarrhea and pooping EVERYWHERE, kids throwing punches and middle fingers at their siblings and simultaneous fatigue from a mixture of constantly being around people (introvert alert) and jet lag.
I am not perfect, and situations are not perfect.
But, it’s at times like this, when I realize it’s absolutely essential that my hope is anchored on something stronger than my discouragement.
“This hope is a strong and trustworthy anchor for our souls. It leads us through the curtain into God’s inner sanctuary.” (Hebrews 6:19)
I’d be lying if I said I didn’t sometimes think about just packing my bags and going back home. I miss Seattle like nobody’s business. But I also know that there’s a plan and a reason for me being where I am. And, perhaps more importantly, there’s a promise that my anchor is holding steadfast, even when I can’t see it.
My identity, although feeling unknown, is buried deep within the hope of a savior who promises not that things will be easy, but that he will be present. Right now things are tough, that’s just a reality. But even as an outlier to my present circumstances, I have confidence in knowing that – regardless of the way I feel about things – below the raging water’s surface is an anchor that promises never to let go.