In 2018, my dad, mom, brother, and I moved from the United States to France. It was a hard transition. I had made other transcontinental moves before, but France…was different. It was both like and unlike what I had always known. That move was full of many “initiation” moments.
The following is an excerpt from my journal one week prior to our move from the United States to France.
I am standing at the end of a diving board. Below me, waters swirl and churn. They are dark waters. Not necessarily bad—just unknown. In some ways I feel like I have been pushed here. Pushed forcibly to the very edge of this board, and soon will-bent hands will shove me off and I will sprawl into the murky water below. In other ways, I feel like Someone is guiding me. Holding my hand. Gently leading. He’s in the water…His arms are open. ‘Step off. Trust me. I will catch you…’”
And all I can really say is—He did. I did sprawl into those waters. It only took the first few hours in the Paris airport for me to feel overwhelmed and almost like I was drowning. But God remained the constant that never sunk beneath my sight. Even with all the newness around me, God stayed the same.
Slowly, ever so slowly I began to adjust and acclimate to the waters around me. Somehow, I learned to fall in love with a country that was not my own. To love a people and culture entirely foreign to me. Not because of stereotypical ideas of what people think France is. Not because of pastries, historic sites, and fields of sunflowers. But ultimately because when I fell into those waters, God caught me. He was that one part of initiation that never changed. He never let me “begin something new” alone.
Initiation. It wasn’t just one experience that “broke me in” to the rhythm of life there. Not some secret ceremony that I went through and came out “accepted.”
Initiation was time. It was weeks of limbo. It was standing out. It was saying many words at the wrong times. Thinking with the wrong mentality. It was asking seemingly stupid questions. Initiation was learning to laugh at my own ignorant foreign self. It was the humility of learning.
Initiation did not transpire in a day, but slowly happened each and every day.
The time did come for me to leave and return to the States. Time for initiation to start all over again.
I wrote this in my journal one day before flying back from France to the States.
Here I am—poised.
Balanced upon the fine line of “hello” and “goodbye.”
One hand stretches outward. Groping for the much longed for people and places, the familiar and the excitement of the new unfamiliar.
The other hand lingers behind me. Grasped upon the lovely, wonderful places of the past. Never daring to ever let go…
And then there’s me. In the middle. Eager, but hesitant. Excited, but afraid. Confident, but unsure. Loving here and aching for there. Caught in the tandem of two opposing pulls. Suspended between conflicting desires…”
I think initiation is a process. It is that place between “hello” and “goodbye.” It is that plunge into newness. And sometimes—it’s hard. It’s hard bursting the bubble of familiarity. It’s hard to bravely strut out into the unknown.
But, truly, there is a kind of beauty to be found on the horizon. A kind of wonder in standing on the cusp of tomorrow, though we know not what it brings.
I am learning that initiation happens every day. All around us, life is full of initiation. Good and bad. Beautiful and miserable. Most of the time, we don’t get to choose it, but we get to choose how we live it. We can live initiation by hiding in hopelessness. We can cower in the corner of our comfort zone. Or, we could step into the horizon knowing that no matter what initiation brings, God remains the same…even as we begin something new.