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”?