Before moving to Canada, my husband and I and our two children lived in a small town in northern Russia for a few years. It was one of those “adventures of a lifetime,” and we thoroughly enjoyed the experience. But as four Americans living in Russia, it wasn’t without its problems, mostly due to cultural differences and unrealistic expectations of how things worked.
For instance, every summer all the hot water in our apartment building (and presumably every building) would be shut off in order to drain and clean the pipes. As far as I was concerned, this was a completely absurd idea. Of course, I’d heard of having your sprinkler system drained and shut off, but your supply of hot water?!? Needless to say, we weren’t excited about the prospect of taking cold showers for three months. For a while, we tried the “camp shower” method of washing: heating a big pot of water on the stove, mixing it with a bucket of cold water, then pouring the warm water over our heads while standing in the tub. Bathing became such a lengthy and involved ordeal that I began to understand why people in previous generations didn’t do it a lot. There had to be another solution… Surely there was some way to help rectify this and all the other problems we were encountering.
Soon thereafter, we were introduced to Boris, a grizzled, old man who mumbled a lot and had a cigarette permanently hanging out of his mouth. Although he looked nothing like your typical businessman, he worked for the same oil & gas company as my husband and specialized in “fixing problems.” I was sceptical at first, but Boris came through. After hearing about our cold showers, he showed up at our door one day with a small, hot water heater and had it installed in our bathroom. We soon had him doing all sorts of things that seemed impossible for a mere mortal. He found us a good housekeeper, arranged quick visas for my parents’ visit, and located a cheap, little dacha outside of town where we could grow a vegetable garden. He even found a Butterball turkey for our Thanksgiving dinner! In essence, Boris became our Mr. Fix-it, and though we didn’t get to know him well, we grew to depend on his help for many things.
For all the “hardships” of living in Russia, the experience undoubtedly helped us to grow in so many ways, both individually and as a family. We met wonderful people, learned another language, and became versed in a culture that had previously seemed so foreign to us. But I’d say the biggest area where we grew was in our faith. As resourceful as Boris was, there were countless times when neither he – nor anyone else – could help us, when we were worried about our family back home, concerned about financial instability in the country, or dealing with unexpected medical situations. If I really stopped to think about how far away we were – how truly “in the middle of nowhere” we were living – I could get a little freaked out!
But it was also at those times that we learned to depend most on God. I discovered that nothing was too big for Him to handle, too small for Him to notice, or outside of His job description. To be sure, we had left behind all the people and things in which we typically place our security: family, friends, our church, and doctors. Even money couldn’t really help us at times. Instead, we learned to take our cares and worries to God. In other words, we prayed – A LOT. Not that the Lord solved all our problems or took away all our frustrations, but He helped us to let go and learn to trust that He had everything under control.
I think we sometimes want to limit God to being our “Mr. Fix-it,” our go-to guy when we’ve got big issues we can’t deal with on our own. Not that He doesn’t want us to come to Him with anything and everything… He certainly does! But He also wants to be so much more than that. Our Lord wants to have a relationship with us, to be a part of our lives all the time. He wants us to love Him not just for what He can do, but for who He is – the God who loves us and only wants to bring about our greatest happiness.
Because God sees the big picture – and we only see a small part – He won’t always “fix” things the way we’d like. But He will show us how to trust in His perfect plan and give us the strength and courage to deal with whatever comes our way. You’ve heard the saying, “God never gives you more than you can handle”? It’s so true. Living in Russia taught me not only my own strength, but also God’s. I discovered that when we relinquish control, He will make up the difference – whatever is lacking in us. And when you know God is on your side, you can handle just about anything.
– Kelley Holy