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Thursday, June 30, 2016

Dropping Dropping

This week has been one filled with uncertainty, unrest, and tragedy in my region of the world. While I try not to be affected too much by world news, I have found myself suddenly questioning whether I should go certain places. There were several bombings in a village near the northern border. A reputable local media source is now reporting a number of foiled attacks around the country, including a mall that I have been to before. After hearing about the attack on Ataturk Airport, I am somewhat more anxious about flying. And then two nights ago, after a lovely evening eating and talking with several friends, a likely drugged taxi driver was a little too insistent on trying to give us a ride and a security guard had to ask him to go away. Now I'm apprehensive about taking public transportation.

One of my students works as a security guard. He's so young and could probably fit through a postage slot sideways. Every time he grins at me in class, I wonder how a mere boy can be tasked with protection. He should be spending his time studying, carefree, enjoying life. I worry for him.

In worship we talked about how no matter where we are, if we are in God's will we are in the safest place we can be in the world. I don't want to live in a state of fear but where is the balance between practical living and safety? I am a single woman in a country that alternates between respecting and degrading my gender. I met a young lady the other day who fearlessly lives life and is heading into an insecure area next week to teach children. I marvel at her bravery even while I contemplate staying on this oval kilometer for the next 8 months.

When I chose to come here, I did so knowing I was taking a risk. Life is risk. Sometimes it is high-risk, other times it is low-risk, but you cannot escape the risk. I've made many decisions in my life that chose to push past the fear, hold the risk in both hands, and keep living life without allowing fear to control my actions. It has to be so. Otherwise I will remain frozen with regret. I must live life.

Friday, June 10, 2016

Comes Goodbye

A friend of mine headed down to Mexico a week ago planning to stay for at least a year. He's returning to the US after realizing it was just a little too difficult to relocate a life to a place where he didn't speak the language, didn't have a permanent place to live, and didn't know anyone. Having moved several times myself, I marveled at his bravery to even try. When I chose to take my own adventure to the Middle East, I already knew the country and culture I was coming to and had good friends. Granted, I didn't speak the language but enough people spoke English that I could manage.

Relocating is much more than signing a contract, packing up a suitcase or two, and stepping onto a plane. It is an entire shift in your thinking, how you act, and what you perceive as normal. Today one of my new friends looked at me in amazement when I casually mentioned something about not being American. But I thought you were American! he exclaimed. I smiled.

I have adopted the accent well enough and learned sufficient lingo that I can posture as American. I know all about The Andy Griffith Show, Friends, and Suits. I have memorized the national anthem, love grilled corn, and wear flip flops in the dead of winter. But my passport is registered in another country and my heart has multiple patches of allegiance sewn on.

Returning to a childhood home, I thought it would be easy to slip back into a familiar skin of relational patterns and expectations. In some ways it has been but in others I realize I know so little about cross-cultural connection. While I don't have to question why things happen, such as why someone chants through a loudspeaker five times a day, I am still floundering when it comes to contextualization and syncretization and integration. How to connect multiple cultures? How to honour distinctiveness, such as the dominant Brazilian culture, while melding the beauty of multi-ethnics into a mosaic of colour?

If it is this hard for me, a child born into a liminal identity, to put the pieces into a rational order, then I cannot imagine how it must be for a monocultural to attempt the same task. Some days I take out a little green book and alongside my prayers and praises, I write my accomplishments. Not to be proud or boast, but to affirm that today I went grocery shopping, today I took out the garbage, today I graded papers. Each small event one to remember because I tried and succeeded.

Thursday, June 9, 2016

First Best

I struggle with being second best. Sometimes it's perceived, sometimes it's real. Many years ago, someone very close to me chose something far inferior over having a relationship with me. They did this over and over, ultimately destroying the hope of having a healthy relationship. I mourned the loss over the years but didn't realize that I was also internalizing that feeling of being inferior. Of being less than.

Today I was thinking about another scenario and I realized that once again, I was feeling like second best. Frustrated, I told God, I just want to know that I'm not second best. I was referring to a scenario in my life but the answer was immediate and clear. To Me, you are never second best.

God knew I would be born into a sinful world and would struggle with the many temptations that would seem easy to do yet impossible to battle (Hebrews 12:1). He knew the fight to be a committed Christian would be difficult because it isn't against people we can see but against spiritual forces (Ephesians 6:12). In His great compassion, mercy and love, He poured out the best that He could give, the most that He could give. His Son for my life.

God saw me in His eyes as first best. It is because He saw me that way that He could send His Son. If God saw me as second best, He would have not accepted Jesus' decision to come to earth. He would have prevented it, arguing that Jesus' life was more important to preserve than mine because I was inferior, I was second best.

The irony is that I am inferior to Jesus. I am the created being and just like the pot is created by the potter, I am not greater than or equal to my Creator (Isaiah 29:16; 45:9). Yet, by the processes of redemption, sanctification, and justification, God equates Jesus' righteousness to my life when I accept His death and salvation by faith and acknowledge Him as divine, and He sees me as first best. God's mercy lifts me up into His kingdom.

First best.