Looking back, this Montana Adventure has been, in some ways, like a trip down the rabbit hole. We could not have predicted the ride to be so rough and crazy-making. But really, we should have expected it. Our experience was classic.
Like the Peace Corps’ model of cultural adjustment (mentioned by my BFF, who just spent a year-plus in Australia with her family), we suffered the typical ups and downs before coming to a place of growth and transformation. It’s striking how similar our experience matched those shown in the following two charts.
Now I’m not insisting that our current home is a “foreign” culture, especially compared to situations where a new language is present or the country’s social-political atmosphere is hostile, or anything like that. But still, our journey took us away from our people and our home, our comforts and cultural roles. We had familiar and rewarding jobs, the closest friends you could ask for, and a loving family a short drive away. In many aspects, we entered a “foreign” culture when we arrived here, on those standards alone. Add in a crazy winter complete with terrible driving conditions, small-rural-town-type isolation, and a few unfavorable encounters with Blackfeet Nation… and the truth is, you’ve got yourself a foreign culture.
We definitely began with a “Honeymoon” phase. It was exciting! We were actually in Montana. We did it. We followed through. Hurrah! There was good weather, seasonal work, and epic hikes to be had. But by the middle of the second month, the snow came. And we got homesick. We missed everything about our former community and began to ask ourselves why we left. By the next month, we were losing confidence. In our spouse. In our situation. In our decision. And it led to depression, anger, and frustration. Every day, our home was hostile. We lashed out at each other instead of bonding through it. Three months in, we were thiiiis close to throwing in the towel. As we planned our Christmas trip home, we seriously considered packing it all up and calling it quits.
That was the “crisis” point. You can see on the above chart that this was a pivotal place. Either we would quit or we would persevere.
I love this part on the chart. There is a split, a severing, at that crisis point. You don’t get to see what happens to the journey after quitting. Because it’s over. Done. And then there is the next branch. Its label, “extended crisis” says it all. Oof, it sounds bad. [In fact, it is. I think we did this for 2-3 months. And yes, it was ugly.]
Even sticking with it, accepting it, without truly allowing your heart to grow, takes an odd turn for the worse. Leading to a “partial recovery,” you can see there is no character transformation here. I can almost taste that life, with twinges of bitterness and malcontent stifling my peace and joy.
According to this model, the thriving comes when you “explore” your options and dive into the culture. It takes risk and challenge, and testing yourself despite your fears. Through that testing, you gain confidence in Christ’s love for you. You gain confidence in His master plan. And you begin to trust. Sure, you trust in yourself. But your trust builds in your spouse. And hopefully, your trust locks into the place where it belongs most: in God’s capable hands.
Eight and a half months into our journey, we’ve hit our stride. We see that God did what he wanted to do in us (that round!). He stretched us and beckoned us to follow Him at a closer distance. We’re unsure of where this road will go from here. But we are willing to stick it out and see. So far, God’s blessings have been plenty! If we had quit at that crisis point, we would have missed out on so much. I tell you all of this, friends, because I hope you stick out your current challenge, too (if that’s what God is telling you to do). While quitting isn’t always bad, there are no shortcuts in life. The hard road is the best road. Usually. Let it shape you and grow you for the better.
Through this experience, I’m beginning to get a better sense of freedom in what happens. I’m beginning to accept that I’m not in control, but that the God who is in control will allow some uncomfortable events to happen in my life. There is no way to explain why horrendous things happen to good people. But maybe it’s simply so that I fully understand that this is not my home, that this whole “life as we know it” is temporary.
“Be patient, therefore, brothers, until the coming of the Lord. See how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth, being patient about it, until it receives the early and the late rains. You also, be patient. Establish your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is at hand.” – James 5:7-8