A Divided Heart


Over a decade ago (man, does that sound like someone else’s life), my family and I lived in Russia. For the first three months, I adjusted to a whole new culture. At the end of that period, I had one thing to say about the experience: “Get me out of here.”

Despite other out-of-America travels, nothing prepared me for the culture shock of Russian life. I arrived in the Far East with all kinds of confidence. I’m good at languages. I like foreign experiences. I’ll fit right in here with little or no problem.

Three months later, I recognized infants knew more Russian than I did. Shoot, even the dogs understood Russian better than me. I learned I didn’t like all foreign experiences. I couldn’t exchange money without help. I couldn’t find my way around the city without help. I couldn’t buy groceries without help. And! I couldn’t ask for help because I didn’t know the language (remember dogs and babies). I thought I’d made the biggest mistake of my life by going there.

Something happened during my first year in country. I at least gained the language skills of a Rottweiler. I discovered pelmini (meat ravioli in gravy). I saw my first singing Siberian Rubythroat (translation: gorgeous little bird). I visited the markets and learned to barter (point at item and shake head no). I got oriented.

I met Leonid and Natasha and Svetlana and Fyodor and Yuri and Tanya and Papichka and Mamichka and…well, lots of people. I came to love the Russian people and to enjoy their often-very-strange culture. And, when I returned to America, I missed my adopted foreign home. I had a divided heart.

I love Russia. I love America. I want to be both places at the same time. I wish getting from here to there wasn’t so darn expensive and difficult. I miss the music, the food, and, of course, the people.

Sometimes my writing about HOME may seem like I’m more about heaven than earth, like I’m just ready to pack my bags and leave this world. The truth is more like my feelings for Russia and America. I love my life in the present. I love my life in the future. I have a divided heart.

And I’m not the first to feel this way. A friend I’ve yet to meet, one I know only through his letters, once wrote: “For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. If I am to go on living in the body, this will mean fruitful labor for me. Yet what shall I choose? I do not know! I am torn between the two: I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far; but it is more necessary for you that I remain in the body” (Philippians 1:21-24, NIV).

Let’s break down a few things from my friend Paul’s quandary. He asked, “What shall I choose?” Based on his advice, here’s how I answer.

1)      I choose to live life here and now.

2)      I choose to serve Jesus Christ, our Elder Brother, here and now.

3)      I choose to keep an eye on the big picture, an eternal view, and the long haul.

I have every confidence in the ONE—that one day He’ll make my divided heart whole again. Until that day, I choose to continue on the JOURNEY HOME.

Question: What other choices would you add to my list?

About tnealtarver

I've traveled and spoken around the world but always love to come home. There I eat exceptional meals, drink coffee to my heart's content, and get loved like nowhere else on earth. I believe a community centered in Christ should be all that and so much more.
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2 Responses to A Divided Heart

  1. Great post. I choose to enjoy the journey … no matter what.

  2. tnealtarver says:

    Being the father of a recent college grad, you probably know all about having your heart in two places.

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