During our first month in Costa Rica one thing has been clear. God had been preparing me for this for a long time.
While I haven’t undergone a cross-cultural move of this magnitude before, I have moved to the United States at three different times in my life. And as I shepherd our kids through this early time of adjustment, I look back and see God’s fingerprints all over those previous moves.
Our first Sunday here, our kids were having a hard time at church. I was having a hard time. As the Spanish songs washed over me, tears welled in my eyes and I thought, “What have I done?”
When they pleaded not to go to church the next week I understood. And as I urged them to return, I spoke with the words of the kid who – more than 20 years ago – walked into a youth group meeting for the first time and sat next to someone who promptly got up and moved.
I made dear friends at that church. I worked as an intern at that church for a summer (my second move to the US). But it took pushing through the newness (and the pain) to make real connections.
When Sam didn’t want to go to school, I was able to speak with the authority of one who had laid awake on a folding bed at the Ramada Inn in Davis, California, not wanting to go to a new school. I could speak with the words God gave me that night in 1994 – “in all things God works for the good of those who love Him…in all these things, we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us” (Romans 8:28, 37).
And when the kids had a hard time during their first visit to the feria (open air fruit market), I could comfort from the experience of the graduate student who had spent an hour trying to figure out a Safeway grocery store in Tucson, Arizona back in 2001. Even though I spoke the language and had been exposed to the culture before, I left that supermarket on the brink of tears because different can be scary and disorienting.
In each of those individual experiences, it would be understandable for me to feel abandoned, alone, and afraid. But looking back, I see clearly that those experiences were not wasted pain, they were preparation.
The title of this post alludes to C.S. Lewis’ beautiful metaphor for this reality of life. In The Horse and His Boy, the protagonist (Shasta) and his companions are chased by lion(s) more than once.
Toward the end of the book, Shasta meets Aslan (the Lion) and complains he is unfortunate to have encountered so many lions during his journey. Aslan’s disagrees and responds simply, “I was the lion.” He tells Shasta that it was he who brought the companions together, comforted Shasta and protected him, gave the horses new strength, and even protected Shasta as a little baby.
In the pains and pleasures of life, a lion – the lion of Judah – is at work. Pain is not wasted. All things are worked together for good. And for those who love God – nothing can separate us from his love that is in Christ Jesus.