As I prepare to go make my way home next week for the Holidays, I find myself even more introspective than usual. My best friend emailed me and wondered if there would be any noticeable differences in me since when I left, which of course got me thinking.
I’ve been living in South Africa for almost eight months and I would think that an experience like this would change me in some obvious way. It would have to, wouldn’t it? But as I examine myself and try to remember who I was before I came, nothing really sticks out. I haven’t become a nature or fitness buff; I’m not any thinner than when I left. I’m not an ultra-spiritual person and I’m probably not that much more mature than before. But what I’ve realized is that most of these things are outward changes and I believe that God has been working on my character more than anything else.
I work closely with a relatively small group of people and if you’ve ever worked with other humans before you know that this is rarely an easy thing. We are all very different from each other; some introverted, some extroverted, different backgrounds, different life experiences. We don’t always see eye-to-eye and conflict isn’t unusual. We hurt each other unintentionally and try our hardest to love each other unconditionally. This is life and it’s difficult and requires intentional forgiveness and understanding. Because we do work closely together, it’s important to not let bitterness and hurt build up or life quickly becomes uncomfortable. I’ve been forced to be real and honest with the people around me when in the past I would have tried to hide my hurt feelings and anger, because I wouldn’t want anyone to become upset with me and not like me anymore.
Through living in community, God has begun to show me what life is supposed to look like and what is important and what is not. He’s used those closest to me and spoken into my life in a powerful way. I walk with a little more confidence these days and I try not to sweat the small stuff. I’m starting to realize my value and I think the process of coming into a better understanding of who God has made me to be has started to change me in ways I can’t even imagine.