Hebrews 12:26-27, “At that time his voice shook the earth, but now he has promised, “Yet once more I will shake not only the earth but also the heavens.” This phrase, “Yet once more,” indicates the removal of things that are shaken—that is, things that have been made—in order that the things that cannot be shaken may remain.”
When my husband and I first immigrated to our new country, we enjoyed the benefits of good preparedness. From clothing to rental apartments, we researched online for months. What were the best brands for winter clothing, trusted by Canadians? What were the budding industries in the city we would call home, with the best job prospects? We worked hard to prepare mentally for the major movement immigration would cause on our lives.
Though our research proved helpful with matters of clothing and understanding the cultural complexities of French-speaking Canada, we soon experienced a far weightier need.
Nothing prepared us for the loneliness that comes with immigration.
We navigated the shifts of our “outside” lives. External changes that literally moved our everyday lives: our mailing address, language for communicating, learning street names and bus routes. Our internal lives proved much harder to manage and understand.
At 40, the anonymity of starting over in the middle of life felt unsettling. In a brisk moment contained in a nine-hour flight, we went from being known by our friends, neighbors, and family, to a name and last name on government forms and job and housing applications most pronounced wrong and several looked on with distance and mistrust. This starting over shook our lives to the core.
In the same way we shake a test tube to test its content for evidence of particles otherwise unnoticeable, immigration agitated our lives and brought to light idols we’d been carefully building and blindly serving for years.
A basic human need like the need to be known, has been covered with layers of accolades, so that need to be known was replaced with the desire to be admired and validated. Both my husband and I had master’s degrees and ample experience in our fields. Without realizing it, we had made these blessings become a measure for our worth. Becoming immigrants uprooted these notions like weeds from the garden of narratives we’d fed our minds for so long.
In Hebrews 12:26-27, the writer brings us to a frightful scene from the Old Testament (Exodus 19:18) at Mount Sinai when the very sound of God’s voice shook the ground where the Israelites stood. The verses mention the promise from God that “Yet once more” God will shake not only the earth but also the heavens.
We learn that “Yet once more” alludes to a shaking so severe it means to remove what is made, so that “the things that cannot be shaken may remain.” The connotation is that what remains is not something that has been made, but rather has been present all along; God and God’s kingdom.
One of the many blessings that came with immigration was things not seen becoming evident to us once more. I don’t think either of us fully understood the idolatry we’d built around our definitions of worth and success. When they stopped serving us we realized we had been serving at that altar for a long time.
The loneliness that comes with being a newcomer is indeed very hard on the heart. But as with all things, God can use it to shed light in corners that might otherwise be kept dark where we don’t really see what we are feeding our soul.
When our trusty measures of worth proved nearly irrelevant, life felt small and insignificant. With all our sources of confidence shaken out, what was left? A flickering minuscule quivering faith. What a relief that the object of that faith is not small or quivering, but a King of kings and a solid Rock of Ages.
And it’s that truth that was left for us to uncover, unscathed, underneath the debris of our shaky foundation that those first years of immigration shook and removed from our lives.
What has God shaken so strongly that only He is left to sustain you?