“I have been a Sojourner in a Strange Land.” Moses Exodus 2:22
Most people like the comfort of the familiar: Our morning cup of coffee on the back porch, slipping into our cozy, run down at the heels slippers at the end of our workday, or other everyday customs, our routines that let us walk in our homes in the dark knowing where the light switches are. Expected surroundings, events, and people provide reassurance and soothe the more bumpy parts of our lives. We can count on the familiar.
And then life happens. We are forced out of our comfort zone or we choose to leave it. All of us face times when we sojourn in strange lands.
Some of these times are brief – vacations from the every day that make us value our ordinary life more when we return.
Some are events where we choose to try new life paths. We forge new directions, take up new interests, move or retire, take a new job, get married, or have babies, or adopt a puppy. Life changes.
Last weekend we hosted a candidate for a church in our area. He preached in Edenton while members of the search committee joined us to hear him and meet with him and his wife. Depending on their decision, a very different place, a new position, a new home, and a new life and ministry may lie ahead. And if that comes to fruition all of it will feel exciting and challenging and different, and fun and energizing….and odd.
It will be the gateway to a strange land…until it becomes the new normal, the new routine, and finally, once again, the comfortable and familiar.
Some foreign lands are thrust upon us. We lose a job, get divorced, get really sick, or face the death of someone we love. The landscape of our lives shifts wildly and we find that even our most basic sense of who we are changes as a result.
Since some pieces of our lives remain the same, it may feel like we have entered a “Fun House” with mirrors that hold images of us that seem distorted, out of sync with who we have always been.
I may be in the minority, but I never liked the Fun House. To get to “the fun” you had to wander through a maze in the dark, with no knowledge of where the source of light could be found. There was no way out but through and the unfamiliar path led you to walk into walls. If always felt scary and disorienting to me, a strange time in a strange place, and I endured it, but it wasn’t easy to embrace.
In life some sojourning times leave behind permanent change to us or to our thoughts of ourselves. We can wish to run back to the comfort of where we come from, but we can’t.
I have learned, most often the hard way, change will come whether I embrace it or not. Sometimes it is a slow evolution, no more noticeable than the growth of a caterpillar, and rests may come when we crawl into our cocoons. But life will lead us, willing or not, down different paths than we expect until we burst forth into strange new experiences. Growth pushes and prods, even hurts, but change will come even to caterpillars who like being caterpillars.
There is no growth without change. And if we let the new road lead us, if we go with the flow even if we don’t rejoice in it, we will find new resting places, new comforts, new interests, new friends. And most often, at least in my life, family and friends have been there for me, to help me through each transition. Like midwives or doulas they have served as guides down pathways that, though foreign to me, they understand.
So….Live in the moment, little caterpillar, sojourn there, love every second. While it is fleeting, it is still wonderful…and then gulp down a deep breath, hold on to your loved ones, and take consolation that when you must leave this comfort behind, new wonders await you.
- Appalachia Song (wytowv.com)