Her bottom lip began a rapid expansion, reaching four-times its normal size in seconds. As I backed away her face seemed to collapse, like slow-motion sink-hole disaster footage. Then, the wails.
On July 15th Hannah hit the 12 month mark. That week, while at orientation camp with WGM, she also began to develop—seemingly earth-shattering—separation anxiety.
Up until then, I had smugly thought our daughter was a born cross-cultural missionary. As Hannah happily played amidst a sea of screaming infants during our church service or crawled around the room to lick the children clinging to their parents, I was certain she had bypassed the “stranger danger” to which her peers had succumbed. Our daughter had clearly been given the divine gifts of flexibility and friendliness!
Playing with friends Chamnab and Sophear
It turns out, our baby is a baby! And while Hannah would often get as upset at the departure of her new friend 3-year old Sophear as that of her dad, she is clearly most comfortable in mom or dad’s arms (and with a fistful of carbs!).
Separation anxiety. Hannah is not the only one feeling it.
Last Saturday night, worshiping at church, it hit me for the first time. I had an overwhelming sense of loss for the body of Christ we have walked with for the last ten years and the family we will be leaving in less than two months. I did not scream, but tears were shed.
Getting yellow fever and rabies vaccines, Hannah’s least favorite change thus far. Tears were also shed here.
It’s not just relationships. As we pack our house and get rid of excess stuff (yes, the clutter accumulates even when you KNOW you will be leaving the country), my sense of unease grows. What if I get invited to an Indian wedding and no longer have my formal, personally-tailored sari? How do you cook without a vit-a-mix? How can I engage in a discussion of fine literature knowing that I don’t have a spare copy of Ender’s Game to give away?
I think it’s ok. For Hannah, her anxiety has minimized her propensity to crawl beyond line-of-sight. For us, it has given us a deep gratitude of the rich relationships with which God has blessed us.
In Philippians 1 Paul describes a righteous separation anxiety: “For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. If I am to live in the flesh, that means fruitful labor for me. Yet which I shall choose I cannot tell. I am hard pressed between the two. My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better. But to remain in the flesh is more necessary on your account.”
While this upcoming separation from friends, family, and the familiar is hard, the Lord has called us. Christ as Lord does not promise an easy life (“If they persecuted [Jesus], they will also persecute you” John 15:20), but we know “the Lord’s labor is not in vain” (I Cor 15:58).