Last night my parents left for Istanbul. My niece, Sarah, drove them from Rochester, New York, to Toronto. There they embarked on a non-stop flight to Istanbul.
They woke up on the other side of the world.
I’ve done this many times myself, but I still shake my head in amazement. How is it that our worlds can change so rapidly? How is it that in a matter of 10 hours, we can arrive in a totally different part of the world?
I know the mechanical and physical part of it, that’s easy. We have airline travel and that has changed the world. What I’m marveling at is the emotional and psychological piece.
You wake up on the other side of the world to the call to prayer and strange syllables being pronounced all around you. You wake up on the other side of the world in a haze of excited exhaustion. Traffic bustles and the city of Istanbul is at the end of a work day. You wake up on the other side of the world, greeted by those who make their home in a 3-bedroom apartment, part of a middle class neighborhood on the Asian side of Istanbul. You wake up on the other side of the world, united to family who love you and welcome you with special care, even as you leave behind family who love you and care for you daily.
On A Life Overseas this morning, Elizabeth Trotter has written beautifully about this. Elizabeth will wake up on the other side of the world tomorrow. She leaves Cambodia, a place where she has been writing her name in the land, and heads to the United States. She writes poignantly about this transition:
“Who am I, and where do I belong? I live in this city and traverse its Asian streets, all without quite belonging to them. Yet I don’t quite belong to the immaculately clean American streets I’ll soon be walking, either. Belonging is a slippery feeling for a global nomad. It can be everywhere, and it can be nowhere, all at the same time.
My parents embarked on a life between worlds long before I was born. When I came into their life, they had already planted their feet both sides of the globe — in Pakistan and in the United States. Their careers were spent waking up on the other side of the world, always leaving someone behind. At first, it was parents and siblings. But as time went on, it was their own children and grandchildren. They are ever-familiar with the tightness in the chest, the swallowing, the tears just beyond the eyelids — all symptoms of goodbye.
As I think about this, I remember the One who knew what it was to live away from his Father, the One who left all that was his, and woke up on the other side of the world. This Jesus knew the agony of separation. The words “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?” were on his lips as he was dying. He knew what it was to long for the place where you truly belong, and so he sent a Comforter.
“I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may be with you forever;”*
If I asked my parents their secret to waking up the other side of the world, they would tell me that it is this Comforter that makes it possible.
Because when we wake up on the other side of the world, the Comforter comes with us.
Photo Credit – Stan Brown