Since moving to my host country a year ago, I have been learning about how to be “known” in the unknown.
I have been reminded of how God made us for one reason: to be known.
Back in my passport country I was known by many. Moving in my early thirties meant I left behind a close-knit community made up of those with whom I had a shared history. I was known, and known deeply. Here in my host country I am unknown in so many ways.
To begin with, not being known took some getting used to. That’s an understatement. For an extrovert like me the loneliness of being in a new culture – which is the opposite of being known – was agony. As a family we began with early steps to build community here, like learning our neighbours’ names, going to the same local grocery store.
Fast forward 3 months and I found a few things to dull the pain of homesickness and loneliness. Hello busyness! Full time language learning, culture adjustment, childcare… A busy diary was familiar trap that threatened to sabotage my ‘being known’ even when I lived in my passport country, and it threatened to do the same here.
Next came social media. Days that were in reality eye-wateringly long and lonely, could be easily perceived as ‘#fun’ ‘#brave’ ‘#adventure’ on Instagram. It was another placebo for feeling truly known.
One year in, however, an honest conversation with a dear friend who does truly know me, pointed out that the picture of my life on social media doesn’t always portray a realistic one. This helped me see 2 things which deep down I knew all along, which we all know wherever we live:
1) there is only one way to be truly known and that is by God
2) because of this, we need to known by each other.
O LORD, You have searched me and known me.
You know when I sit down and when I get up;
You understand my thought from far off.
You search my path and my lying down
and are aware of all my ways.
– Psalm 139:1-3
God knows me more than I know myself doesn’t he? Pre-move, I told him if all this move across the world does is bring me closer to Him, that it will all be worth it. On the days when no one but my household knows what I have done that day, God knows. He sees.
Now that we’ve passed the one year mark, I have finally started to become known by a few new friends here. And it is wonderful, slow, draining, exciting. As playdate invitations come in from local mums, we get invited for nights out with neighbours, we plan exciting ministry opportunities, and things get busy, it is only God knowing when I stand up or sit down that makes me truly known. Scrolling through 100 Instagram posts doesn’t make me or their owners more known. Moving to another nation is teaching me what it means to be an audience of one sometimes. When I am at my most unknown, I am deeply, perfectly known by the one who loves me most.
As we enter year 2, I thank God for new friendships and that community is slowly being built. In order to continue to know and to be known by new people I need to remain connected to those who know me. I am learning to walk this delicate balance.
Instead of mindless screen scrolling I regularly and intentionally connect to a few wonderful close friends who know me deeply – some back in my home country and some who have also moved abroad. I remain committed to those crucial relationships. They (along with technology!) are a gift from God, and they remind me that when I am miles away from all whom I still hold dear, I am known.I am known by the One who calls me to the unknown.
This is how I can have both faith and commitment to be able to settle and stay here long haul.
Where can I go from your Spirit?
Where can I flee from your presence?
If I go up to the heavens, you are there;
If I make my bed in the depths, you are there.
If I rise on the wings of the dawn,
if I settle on the far side of the sea,
even there your hand will guide me,
your right hand will hold me fast.
– Psalm 139:7-10