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The Emotional
Rollercoaster Of Furlough
By Erika Cisler
For a long while leading up to our first
furlough, I was so excited to go back to the
States. At one point, I even had to wrestle
with the Lord over the fact that my thoughts
were consumed with the upcoming trip rather
than with Him and the task to which He had
called me. Yet, as the days grew nearer, I was
surprised by an unexpected sentiment—dread.

I found myself thinking, “It was so hard to
leave the first time. I do not know if I want to
go through that again!” I also struggled with
the realization that no matter how much time
I had, it would never feel like enough. Thus
began the emotional rollercoaster I would ride
for the next eight months.

When we reached the States, I faced the
predictable sensory overload. The sheer volume
of people, cars, and STUFF is overwhelming.

Even a small grocery store could cause inner
turmoil! So many choices made my head spin.

Yet, I was still excited to be back.

Suddenly, the rollercoaster turned and I was
confronted with the sensation of “no one
understands.” I had such a desire to involve my
friends and family in my life, yet in the back of
26 my mind I struggled with the knowledge that
they could never truly relate. I was bursting
with stories and emotions I longed to share
with them, yet there seemed to be an invisible
barrier between us that I knew I could not tear
down. At this point, I moved on down the track to
“taking it all in.” I remember sitting in my
home church, one of my favorite places to be,
and just wanting to sit back and absorb every
sight, every sound, every moment. I did not
want to leave the church! I wanted to stay and
immerse myself in fellowship, to drink it in
deeply and savor it. I just wondered if everyone
else around me felt the same appreciation, if
they understood how truly blessed they were.

As the ride continued, I reached a point of
acceptance. This was simply a nice vacation,
so I would just purpose to make memories.

We visited many neat places, took a LOT of
pictures, and tried to enjoy as much as we
could. After a while, I even started to miss the
simplicity of life in Uruguay, whereas I had
missed the variety of the States. The grass is
always greener on the other side!

The next twist in the track
brought me to the big hill
right before the giant fall. I
found myself taking things
for granted. As strange as
it sounds, this was actually
a good thing! I had finally
stopped focusing so much
on mentally preparing for
the impending departure.

Having formed some
kind of routine, I was
comfortable. I was just
living day to day in what
was my current state of
“normal” (visiting churches, schooling, family
time, etc.).

A month and a half out from our departure
came the first farewells. The descent down the
giant hill on the rollercoaster was upon me. I
had faced this feeling before and I knew it by
name—Grief. On one of the last Sundays at
my home church, I sat alone in my pew. At
least that was how I felt. I was surrounded
by people, yet felt like no one knew the pain
I was struggling with, as though there was
an elephant on my back that no one could
see. It was a bittersweet time. I was trying to
take it all in, savor every moment, but I was
overwhelmed with the thought of it coming
to an end. For some reason, the pain seemed
more unbearable this second time around. I
think we all had a new understanding of just
how long four years can feel and just how hard
it is to be apart for that long.

As we arrived back in Uruguay, getting back
into our daily routines, I kept waiting to reach
the bottom of the hill, for that “sigh of relief ”
to come. In my mind, I thought that when I
reached Uruguay, I would feel a sense of relief.

Yes, it was hard to leave, but now I would be back
in my own house, ready to get back into a stable
routine of life. Instead, it was as though that
“sigh of relief ” was a long, deep breath that I was
exhaling ever so slowly over a matter of weeks.

Just as a rollercoaster ride is filled with various
emotions from every hill and turn, so is the
emotional rollercoaster ride of furlough. We
experience excitement and anticipation, joy
and laughter, fear and sadness, ups and downs,
and twists and turns. Sometimes it is hard to
know if we love it or hate it, if we want to go
around again or simply want to get off and
walk away. Yet when the time comes, we will
gladly climb aboard the rollercoaster once
more, knowing that our labour is not in vain in
the Lord (1 Corinthians 15:58). W