How Could You?!
Over the years, I tried in multiple ways to answer the question. I would reply from all angles - answer of logic, answer of emotion, answer of reason. Each had its audience. I gave the Biblical perspective, the spiritual perspective, the godly perspective. Countless times the response I received in return was a blank stare, a grimace, sometimes even a glare.
In spite of my attempts to communicate, I did not possess within my human self an answer. Never did I have an explanation, save one, that landed correctly.
How could you leave your parents and take their only grandchild to live so far away in an unsafe, unknown Communist country?
My answer then is my answer now: The will of God.
God made His call on our lives to go to live covertly behind the Iron Curtain so unmistakably clear that to refuse to go would be willful, blatant disobedience.
However, the domino effect of our decision left holes in the hearts of those we left behind. Their sorrow was genuine, and their pain ran deep. At the outset, close friends of theirs offered strong opinions; one predicted Communist prison for us. Another suggested my parents phone Washington and blow our cover. In the face of these challenges, I found myself helpless to fix it. Constantly, I had to put my own heartache into the Holy Hands of God.
Packing clothes, loading luggage, and checking-in at the airport were like objects on an emotional conveyor belt moving us toward our inevitable separation. Hugs...tears...and one last wave punctuated our parting. Watching my mother tearfully kiss our 17-month-old goodbye and seeing my Daddy turn his head away, took my soul to depths it had never before plumbed.
My strength to let go, to turn, and to walk down the jet way came from three truths anchored in the Word of God:
God’s will is good, acceptable and perfect (Romans 12:2b); Hard does not mean wrong.
God’s will is consistent; His will for me was also His will for my parents.
God’s will is the ultimate safest place on earth to be, even when His will meant living a dual life in a Communist nation.
Did I continue to feel deeply? Yes
Did I do everything possible to keep them connected to our lives? Yes
Did I pray with every fiber of my being that they would know joy and peace? Yes
Did it ever go away? No, not really.
The Atlantic Ocean remained between us for thirty-three years. Over the decades they were missed at birthday parties, piano recitals, and sporting events. Graduations had no grandparents in attendance. Thank goodness, God always filled in the gaps; His Presence occupied the empty seats.
Consistently, my parents' commitment to our relationship, despite their heartache, was stellar. They persevered with phone calls, photos, and generous care packages; they even came for a few visits. Their determination to connect was exemplary.
Over time, the Cold War thawed, and our geography shifted. Throughout the transitions, our distant relationships were abundantly, supernaturally blessed. But the core issue never fully went away. At unsuspecting times a nipping sensation of guilt attempted to derail me. Each time I grasped those three truths that took me down the jet way.
God’s will is good, acceptable and perfect; hard does not mean wrong
God’s will is consistent
God’s will is the ultimate safest place on earth
Not every missionary experiences these tensions, but this one did.
How could you?! I learned that obedience to God is just that: Obedience. "Obeying God in the power of the Holy Spirit, and leaving the results to God," may also involve pain for us and for others, especially those we love dearly.