by Michelle Fong Romig
Angry. Stressed. Scared. Confused. Lonely. Broken. Exhausted. Lost.
These are the themes from my 2010-2011 journal. That was my year of transitions. In that span of time I got married, moved overseas as a missionary, took over a restaurant, faced bitter conflicts, learned a new language, endured my first pregnancy, lost my grandfather, moved back to the US, and went from a full-time ministry job to being a stay-at-home mom… amongst other things.
Even now as I think back to that time I can feel the anxiety and dizziness that defined that season. Some of my transitions were certainly happy ones (I’ll take the opportunity here to state how thankful I am for my husband and daughter), but others were also really painful. And with each new transition, I felt thrown off of any sense of stability.
I can remember the questions and doubt I had towards God as I scrambled to understand why he was allowing me to feel so lost amidst it all. I mean, I had left my comfortable life in America to be a missionary in a spiritually dark land. Couldn’t he slow things down just a bit so that I could catch my breath? Couldn’t he soften the personal blows that seemed to be unending? Couldn’t he make me a little more resilient so that I could handle it all?
I never got an answer to my questions. In fact, each time some new transition barged its way into my neatly packed plans, there was only a simple reminder: “Fix your eyes on Jesus.”
Yeah right, while I’m trying to work a 60-hour job that I didn’t sign up for?
“Fix your eyes on Jesus.”
You expect me to do that while I struggle to communicate in a different culture to people who hate me?
“Fix your eyes on Jesus.”
Um, I wish I could, but I’m too busy trying to survive.
I wish I had stopped long enough to heed the Truth that I was so graciously being reminded of. You see, what I needed during my transitions weren’t answers. I didn’t need God to conform to my plan or “pay me back” according to what I foolishly thought I was entitled to. What I needed was God himself, Emmanuel, God with us.
Eventually, unbeknownst to me, God answered my prayer to make things slow down a bit. He stopped me. Winter came. Then depression. Finally my rough pregnancy kept me at home and I was left with no extra activities to distract me. One day as I was half-heartedly listening to a sermon on the importance of the gospel, it hit me: somewhere in all the transitions I had lost what the speaker was talking about. I had become so preoccupied with my circumstances and my transitions that I had lost sight of Jesus. And when I realized how long I’d lost sight of him, I missed Jesus. I missed fellowship with him so desperately!
In time, my husband and I realized that in fact we were both burnt out and worn down by the high level of stress we were under. By God’s grace, we made the tough decision to surrender our ministry, our home, our plans… everything, so that we could slow down and recover while rediscovering the joy of fixing our eyes on Jesus. It’s been a very long and humbling journey since, including many more transitions (and probably more to come).
But these words from Hebrews 12:2-3 remain treasured in my heart:
Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfector of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured the cross so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.
Transitions are an inevitable part of life. Whether they come slowly or suddenly, deliberately or unintentionally, a million at a time or just one, happy or difficult—we can all count on transitions happening.
Sometimes we go through transitions gracefully, but when we don’t (and for a lot of us, let’s be honest- we just don’t) we can rest in the fact that there is abundant grace as we go to the cross and fix our eyes on Jesus. Jesus is the one we must cling to through the calm and through the storm. Only in Christ do we find strength and grace sufficient for today… and for all our tomorrows.
ABOUT THE WRITER
Michelle is a native San Franciscan who currently lives in Kansas with her pastor husband Curt and their daughter, Izzy. When she’s not attending to the needs of her busy daughter, she and Curt love to watch “The Office” and read. Michelle also enjoys seeing lives transformed by the gospel through refugee ministry and representing the Starfish Project, a ministry which rescues women out of prostitution. Michelle blogs occasionally at The Romig Chronicles.