We went time traveling again last week. The trip to the States from Japan is always a very literal trip back in time. We arrive at our destination in Chicago at an earlier time than we left from Japan. This is possible because we fly east and cross over the international date line. In the case of last week, we left at 6:30pm on a Wednesday and arrived at 4:20pm the same day. Witnessing two sunsets the same day is very odd. It's enough to put one's body into a jetlag tailspin. And it did. And so again this past week we've dealt with the problem of being wide awake by 3am, and ready to crawl into bed by 4pm the same day. Our bodies do not handle time travel very well apparently. Our bodies grumble at the new schedule, the new and sudden change in diet, the new surroundings and climate.
The physical adjustment of coming to the States is one real challenge. Still another challenge to this time travel is the mental adjustment. Big and small changes that have occurred in our culture and lives of people may have been easily absorbed if meted out one by one over time, but when you have been gone for a while and suddenly are met with all these changes at once, your brain begins to hiccup. You feel a bit of the Rip Van Winkle syndrome. You wonder if you really belong in this country. When exactly did people begin doing this (i.e., walking around talking to themselves with things stuck in their ear, self-checking their groceries, etc. etc.)? This neighborhood has changed. That person is no longer alive. Those familiar faces have grown older. A thousand and one little changes all around make us feel as though we have time traveled into the future.
This adjustment is perhaps the harder one to make, because there is a sense of loss and estrangement. While we don't expect things to remain the same, we do expect to feel at home when we return. But this feeling of moderate alienation with one's own culture should not be unique to missionaries. Scripture reminds all of us as believers that this world is not our home, that being uncomfortable in the world culture about us should be normal, that we are all sojourners looking toward a heavenly home. That "Our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ." Phil 3:20
I will always be a traveler in this world as I look forward to the next. This is a good reminder as we begin our home assignment back in to the States.