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ride the wave


“Splendor and majesty are before him; strength and joy are in his dwelling place.” I Chronicles 16:27

Transition is like watching the tide make its way in and out along the smooth sands of the ocean shore.

One minute all is calm. All is peaceful. The seas are friendly, relaxing, and smooth. There are no worries. The crystal clear waters sparkle and dance under the warmth of the morning sun. Life feels balanced and refreshing.

Then slowly something starts to stir, and suddenly there are waves and riptides; churning waters and sea foam spread out all over the coastline. Bodies in the water get tossed about as if they are in the spin cycle of a washing machine. It is difficult to find balance. It is nearly impossible to keep one’s head above the water. One big wave and the body is submerged into the salty sea. There is no balance. It is simply about survival.

Last week, the tide came in at the Slater house. From out of the calm and balanced came the crashing weight of the reality of transition. We’re still in it. Granted, we are not in it constantly (thankfully, because I don’t think my emotions could handle that!), but, like the ebb and flow of the ocean tides, we are still very much working our way through this season of change.

As I write this, the power has gone out twice. I’ve almost gotten used to power outages at the most inconvenient times. These minor interruptions to my morning might have gone unnoticed had not all the kitchen appliances dinged and whirred the minute the power came back on. I sometimes wonder if I will ever get used to losing power. Maybe that will be my sign that I’ve completely assimilated into my Malawi life.

Last week was difficult for our kids. The power – metaphorically speaking – went out for each of them at different times. The tide came in, and it nearly drowned them.

The thing about transition is the powerlessness one feels as they are being tossed about and hammered against the ocean floor. There is so much grasping with nothing out there to grab ahold of. It is a hard, lonely, and overwhelming experience. The power is out. Our children feel powerless because they can’t seem to find their footing in this new world and this foreign culture. Joel and I feel powerless because we can’t fix it. This kind of power outage, I may never grow accustomed to.

Praying for our family, as the tide of transition made its way to shore once again, I realized we have two options here. Maybe we are not altogether powerless. Maybe we have a choice. It hit me that we could choose to pack it up and leave, return to a life and a city and a school and a familiarity that our children are longing for in this specific moment. We could do that. We could say, “enough is enough”, and run for comfort and convenience rather than power outages and rough waters.

Or, we could ride the bumpy, jostling wave all the way into shore.

We could choose to leave, or we could choose to stay.


To stay…continue…

“Strength and joy are in his dwelling place.” I Chronicles 16:27

In order to ride the wave, we need power. In order to have power, we must lean into the power Source. Strength to endure during challenging times is not something that we can manufacture. I can’t will myself to be strong. However, this Scripture reminds me that strength is in the place where God dwells, and His Holy Spirit dwells within each believer.

(Just chew on that for a minute or two…)

God’s spirit resides within us. It’s not some place out there that we have to travel long distances to, or a building that requires our attendance in order to tap into God’s presence. We are his dwelling place. And therefore, His strength is inside of us.

We remain, we stay, and we continue wading through the waters and tides of transition because God’s strength enables us to do so. Quite honestly, my children would never fully comprehend this principle if they were still living their perfect suburbian lives in the United States. I’m not knocking that life, by the way, but the treasure I am discovering in all of this chaos is that God is being faithful to guide us and give us a deeper awareness of his faithfulness and his strength.

And what is even more amazing to me is that we not only have God’s strength, but we can experience pure joy, even when the waters cover our heads.

“Strength and joy are in his dwelling place.”

Joy doesn’t mean we’re always laughing and singing and dancing and playful. Joy doesn’t always look like a happy face.

But joy, true joy, strengthens our weary hearts. It reminds us that there is purpose in this transition. There is purpose in the tide. Stagnant water gets polluted and dirty, but moving water shakes out the disease and the debris. We need the tide to keep us moving forward, to stir us up, to strengthen us for the long haul.

We remain.

With God’s strength and God’s joy dwelling inside of us, we can handle the rough waves that threaten to knock us down. We are not powerless. The safest position is not to turn our back on the waves and focus on the shore; the safest place is looking ahead for the next oncoming wave, anticipating how we may catch it and ride it to our ultimate destination.  And when we choose to learn how to swim through the transition, we find that those smooth waters and calm seas do return.

“Strength and joy are in his dwelling place.”

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