As I look out of the window upon a typically rainy British summer’s day, I am in a reflective mood. Amazingly it is approaching 9 months since our last blog post, and therefore nearly 9 months since we left Cambodia. How did that happen!?! I therefore thought it might be interesting to give you a bit of a flavour of what it is like to come back.
Firstly, its been wonderful to have an extended time to reconnect with family and friends, not just a for a snatched afternoon or day, but to be able to properly rebuild relationships and forge new ones. England, and even Coventry, is also a lot greener than I remember!
It has also been really encouraging to hear stories from Cambodia about how the church, and our friends there are doing. We miss them all dearly but are so proud to hear of their hard work, continued faithfulness, and dreams and plans for the future.
Leaving them and returning to the UK has certainly been weird. Somehow it has been possible to simultaneously feel both totally at home, and yet totally lost and disconnected at the same time. Its like putting on an old pair of slippers that you know and love, and yet finding that your feet do not quite fit anymore, and that the slippers themselves have changed colour and shape.
Coupled with this, I think it would be safe to say that the past few months have not quite progressed as we had thought they might. Unexpected family news, changes in our family of churches, and our own decision to push ahead with fertility treatment have meant that our anticipated short-term return has gradually evolved into a long-term one. We feel a mix of emotions about this – sometimes peaceful, sometimes excited, sometimes uncertain, sometimes sad. Sometimes a bizarre concoction of all four at once, which means my own emotional state has been somewhat turbulent and unpredictable.
This week I have been studying the wonderful, inspiring book of Ruth in the Bible. Ruth is a childless widow, who chooses to leave her country and family out of love and devotion to Naomi, her similarly widowed, but bitter, mother-in-law who bemoans what she has lost.
As we continue to reflect on the past and make decisions about the future, including applying for jobs, beginning IVF treatment and searching for houses to buy, like Naomi I have found a surprising and unwelcome visitor want to come and fellowship with me: regret.
Regret is not a pleasant companion. She has whispered to me that I made a mistake in giving up my HR career to work for the church in 2007, saying that my CV is now undesirable to potential employers. She has bemoaned the day that I gave up the security of my job, salary and leadership role in Coventry to move to Cambodia. She has shaken her head at our financial choices including selling our house before we left. She has even urged me to curse the choice to step back from pushing for fertility treatment several years ago, so that we could move to Cambodia, as our chances of starting a family have now deteriorated. And day-by-day she comes knocking at my door at regular intervals seeking fellowship.
But whilst Naomi bemoans her loss, Ruth faithfully sets to work where she comes to the attention of the heroic Boaz. Others see Ruth as a risk – a barren woman who might “impair my own inheritance” as a potential wife (Ruth 4v6) – but Boaz chooses to marry her, a child is born to them and they go down in history as the great-grandparents of King David, and in the royal line and genealogy of Jesus (Matthew 1v5).
I am reminded today that faithfully following Jesus, and walking step-by-step with him, even taking risks against the logic and expectations of the world around us will never lead to us “impairing our inheritance”. Far from it. Every sacrifice we made to go to Cambodia has been worth it. Our dear friends in Phnom Penh were worth it. Jesus is, and will always be, worth it.
As we face the future I do so choosing to shut the door on regret and instead to take refuge in an all together better place. As Boaz himself says to Ruth:
“All that you have done for your mother-in-law since the death of your husband has been told to me, how you left your father and mother and your native land and came to a people that you did not know before. The Lord repay you for what you have done, and a full reward be given you by the Lord, the God of Israel, under whose wings you have come to take refuge” (Ruth 2v11-12)