Recently I was talking with a friend about life lessons she had learned while traveling through South America. Hearing how her journeys shaped her into who she is today was a beautiful story. I know I could tell similar ones, and I love the idea of looking at place as a sort of classroom to learn the lessons we need.
Spain taught me a lot about courage. It was my first time abroad by myself, and bravery was a necessity to survive in another country. Canada taught me about living in the present. I learned that while future plans were helpful, life was happening right under my nose and wasn’t waiting for anything. There were many other lessons, of course, some too personal to post here. But what intrigues me is how I don’t always understand the lessons as I am learning them. Hindsight tends to bring clarity. So while I can’t say definitively what Switzerland is teaching me right now, I know that in spite of all the highs and lows–or maybe because of them–living abroad is still a great classroom.
I could go on about the advantages and drawbacks. However, what seems to be true regardless is how living abroad brings me to the end of myself much more quickly than if I were in a place where everything is familiar. It forces me to depend on God in a way that might not happen if I felt like everything was under my control. And living in a another country shows us how quickly we are not in control: of our own cultural assumptions, of finding our way; even our tongues betray us as we struggle with the local language. It is in this lack of control where we can finally begin to learn.
I measure my life in countries and years. But these are just specific ways to look at seasons of life, where we learn something about who we are and who God is. The key is to look back every once in a while, to realize we have not come here overnight, and to see what each season has taught us.