The Fluidity of Plans & the Chemistry of Community

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It’s really strange to think about the fact that I was supposed to be in Shanghai right now. Some of you may have already known this, but my school was going to send me to Shanghai to teach English at a brand new learning center over there for the months of April, May, and June. This three-month adventure would have started today.

As it is, I’m not in Shanghai today. I have not begun what I thought would be a five-month sabbatical from the ministry here in Taipei. I am still in Taiwan, and have another 3 months of the regular (and at this point in my life – grueling) teaching schedule, and another 3 months of full-on life and ministry before heading to the States for the summer in July.

When I was first notified of the change in plans (after a couple of months of myself and those closest to me thinking that I was taking off at the end of March for 5 months – a long time after rooting yourself somewhere for 3 years), there was no disappointment. It might have been more of a surprise than anything. And there’s also the factor of the whole project being postponed until September. So theoretically, as the plan currently stands, I might still be going to Shanghai for 3 months in September.

But September’s a long way from now. And plans are bound to change. And so is the course of our lives. And I know I’m supposed to be in Taiwan right now, doing what I’m doing, right here and right now.

With all of this mind, the losses and good-byes in life define the forward motion of the human journey. And in a sense, not being in Shanghai right now is definitely a loss. And right alongside that is the gain of three months with the people here, with the ministry, and even with my English students.

And to be honest, three months, 5 months, even two months, away from my life here, no matter where the other place is, is going to be a loss in itself. But every loss is accompanied with gain. And it is in this dichotomy we live. 

Alas, I have reached my final thoughts:

This last Tuesday, I shared my story of living in a foreign country with a group of university students who are majoring in hotel management and international trade. (Tuesday morning Language Corner at Jingwen Technological University has been a part of our ministry for the last 4 years.) I found myself rather overwhelmed in my preparation for it. I was digging through pictures I hadn’t looked at for the last couple years, pictures of my life that I forgot were even on file, pictures of people and moments that have been so monumental in shaping my life since I’ve arrived here.

One part of my presentation was about finding love in a foreign country. I knew what all those college students were expecting and threw them all for a loop when my four points were loving yourself, loving others, being rooted in community, and accepting grace. 

And that is exactly what I’ve learned to do here in Taiwan. That’s what I’ve been striving to do since setting out on this thing called life after college graduation. And that, my friends, is the chemistry of community. It’s the balance (and sometimes imbalance) of loving ourselves, loving each other, being rooted in the relationships we share, and accepting grace. 

Today, may you love yourself more, love the people around you harder, become even more rooted in your community, and accept grace without question. And may the losses and good-byes of life continue to move us all forward.

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