I think the experience of snorkeling for the first time is a great analogy for moving and living overseas.
Excitement, anticipation, and perhaps a little fear arise in setting out on the new adventure. Upon arrival to the destination, the awkwardness in wearing flippers and a mask, breathing through your mouth with a snorkel instead of your nose, and trying to maneuver off the boat is a bit anxiety producing (even before entering the water)!
These mixed feelings arise in entering a new culture: your ability to communicate, job, way of doing life, and clothes are often very different and awkward!
But with a burst of courage, you jump in (or plop over the side of the boat in my case). The realization of not having a life jacket becomes real when waves hit you, and by default you try to breathe through your nose (but can’t). And the prior subconscious activity of breathing now receives your full attention and effort!
All this is happening while treading water, swatting away unknown sea life that bump into you, and watching the boat float further away while longing for solid ground. Multiple people around you seem to be just fine, but you feel like you’re drowning! After a few minutes of freaking out (on the inside, of course), you calm yourself down and start to self-talk/pray (it’s gonna be ok, just breathe, relax, Jesus, help!). Or as Dory would say, “Just keep swimming”.
Miraculously sanity returns ushering in curiosity to actually snorkel. As my face became immersed I was so astounded that my jaw dropped open, and you guessed it–salt water poured in! I came up sputtering, but the beauty and majesty beneath the water’s surface was glorious!! It really looks like it does in The Little Mermaid (minus mermaids, of course). Schools of fish, multi-colored coral, sea shells, and beautiful sea life abounded below the surface.
Above water, all I experienced were the wind, waves, and sounds of other people having fun while I felt like I was losing control and sinking, but as I relaxed and engaged, I saw glimpses of glory that were truly stunning.
Longings to see more filled me! But, as life would have it, my mask kept fogging up, causing visualization to only be present around the periphery. Cleaning the mask while getting hit again by waves and swallowing my weight in salt water, I thought, “this is much more difficult than it appears, there’s gotta be an easier way”. But there’s not.
Experts soon came along to point out what they were discovering. I NEVER saw those amazing things; only the things I was meant to see. Once I got the hang of it, I actually had fun and enjoyed the experience. It wasn’t without struggles (at one point later on I was cleaning off the mask again and lost the snorkel!!! whoops!), but I learned to improvise and work with what I had. 🙂
It was exhausting, yet exhilarating, and an experience that made me trust the Lord’s provision in ways that were often uncomfortable. I think life is like that more times than not—fuzzy, unclear, and confusing, but when we look back we realize how those circumstances bring deeper and fuller life (often underneath the surface)!