When I am home, I auto-pilot my way through most daily tasks.
When I returned from the grocery store yesterday, I barely recalled the drive home. Scary stuff. My mind lapsed into replaying conversations from the day, then making dinner plans, then deciding what to include in a new book proposal. My body, meanwhile, knew the streets and turns to get home. Auto-pilot had successfully set sail for home.
When I am in a new culture, however, I have to think about everything I do.
In a recent trip to southeast Asia, my brain was on overdrive. My auto-pilot crashed and burned in my first steps off the airplane. I failed the “Welcome to Thailand” greeting (even though I had prepared for the moment). My instinctive “Hello” handshake hung in the air then morphed into steepled hands and a respectful bow. I looked like a one-winged, flapping chicken.
In Thailand, I became acutely aware of the stunning array of choices that arise throughout the day. I needed guidance and constant supervision.
Our gracious hosts served breakfast. Cheerios and yogurt, I know what to do. But rice, bowls of a chicken broth, leafy greens, boiled egg, and chili peppers. Help! What order do I do things? Are there any napkins? And, by the way, where are the chairs?
Crossing the street? No problem. Unless the cars whiz by on the left side of the road and you expect to see them on the right side of the road. If you look the wrong way and there’s no one there to take care of you, “splat!” comes to mind.
Awkwardness. Dependence. Patience. My unexpected companions in southeast Asia.
My auto-pilot navigation of daily activity was ill-equipped to carry me through the day in Thailand. The culture differed so much from American suburbia that my full attention was required 24-7. It mattered to me that I not insult our hosts or the people of Thailand. I wanted to abide by their social rules but I was clearly not of this land.
A Traveler in This Land
Truth be told, however, I am a visitor even in my home country. My auto-pilot ought to be shelved. Attentiveness, humility, and even awkwardness ought to be fully operational 24-7.
We are all on a faraway journey, according to the Bible. As believers in Jesus, our citizenship is not of this land. It is Heaven. (Philippians 3:20) Jesus taught that His kingdom is not of the world. (John 18:36) We likewise, as sons and daughters of the King, are not of this world.
I fear, however, that I have become a bit too comfortable in this life. My recent travels to Thailand showed me what it is like to not be of the world.
Large chunks of my day miss the critical degree of separation from the wants and habits of this world. Although I am a citizen of Heaven, I fear that in many ways I have fully adopted the traits of the land to which I “am not a part of”. Consumer debt, time choices, entertainment of movies and sports… I am right there. And, I’m comfortable.
When on cultural auto-pilot, I miss the opportunity to be observant and to be a better neighbor. I go through the motions of a very familiar way of life. What if I lived each day to connect but not blend in? How how much of a better witness for the Lord will I become? As I long for my heaven-home, I want to not be so comfortable in my suburbia home.
Jesus’ teachings remind me of my true home. I mean heaven-home, not suburbia home. What is the culture in that home? How does that lifestyle impact this lifestyle? My everyday way of life needs to reflect my true citizenship. I want to better represent my heaven-home in this land. Hmm…I have a lot more to think about …
What if I lived my life a bit more uncomfortable with the culture around me?
I have given them your word,
and the world has hated them
because they are not of the world,
just as I am not of the world.
I would LOVE your thoughts. What does it mean to you that Christians are “not of this world”?
Thank you for that perspective. You are right that we don’t apply the same attentiveness to our choices here.I ask myself why I am not more conscious of my identity as a traveler in this world? What must I be engaged in more so that the awareness becomes a habit?
WordPress.com Support says
Great questions, Stephanie! For me, I allow life’s issues to attract my attention far too much. Cultivating the habit of practicing the presence of God helps draw me back to Christ-centered travels.
Esther Emery says
Mmm. I love this line of thinking. Sometimes the comfort is just a numbness, isn’t it? Thanks for raising this challenge.
Sharon R Hoover says
I agree, Esther! Numbness does indeed set in. Great point. A mind-numbing stupor descends when comforts forego the need for engagement and decisions. Thanks for joining in the conversation!
Andrew Gilmore says
I think also of the verse “Do no be conformed to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.”
When you mention going on “auto-pilot” during your drive home, that’s your brain trying to conserve energy. It’s made driving a habit so that you can focus on other things. But you bring up a good point:
This function of the brain is biology, to preserve life at all costs. Contrast this with what Paul wrote in the above verse: to be transformed by the renewing of your “mind”.
This is the eternal struggle of man: flesh (brain) versus spirit (mind)!
We’re not of this world, so we literally have to battle ourselves because our flesh wants worldly things.
Sorry to go off on a tangent, but you sparked something in my mind. :) Thanks for the good post.
Sharon R Hoover says
Love the tangent, Andrew! The battle does indeed play out regularly. The age-old question continues: how do we best transform our minds as our brain strives for life preservation? I’m especially grateful that we are created to be in community. This conversation, friends, and our church family are a great means to wrestle with these questions. Thanks!
Matt Hogsett says
I find myself on auto-pilot frequently, going through prayer and devotionals sometimes mindlessly. How do you propose we reboot our systems to be alert 24/7 as if we were in a foreign land?
Sharon R Hoover says
Great question! I’m puzzling over this myself. I believe I need to move away from habitual choices. A minor idea: I drove to work a new way today. I discovered new sights and my mind was more engaged in all that I passed. Now to translate that into the bigger picture of faith and being “uncomfortable” enough to be constantly seeking the Lord. What might work for you?