Six O’clock comes really fast when you go to bed past midnight. My weekend alarm — a Calypso tune — woke me with a start. Sleep eluded me this morning for a number of reasons I suppose, but mainly because I was not pleased with this post. I had published it after midnight once I had grown tired. I should’ve waited ’til I had rested. It was too soon. It hadn’t cured, but my motives and my mission were not in sync. You see, I hadn’t posted anything in a week — not because I didn’t have any material, but because this past week had been a busy one. I didn’t have any free time to write. I had been studying the word daily and highlighting verses on my bible app to use as the meat of my upcoming blog posts, but I just couldn’t carve out any time to write. Somehow I thought that in a week’s time, my readers might lose interest since I hadn’t written anything, so I succumbed to my desires, ignored the Spirit’s voice, and pressed Publish. Instead of staying on course as I always do, I veered off and paid dearly for it.
Typically when the alarm goes off, I grab my phone, bible, and journal and head downstairs to pray. Today I did everything except the most important thing — praying. Instead, I went to my page to refine my thoughts. Unknowingly, I opened a draft on a different device, updated it, and lost everything I had worked on for hours in an instant. I tried everything to recover it. I even went to my Facebook and Twitter pages to try to retrieve the post, but updates are immediate, and the post was a shell of its former state. What I learned from that was threefold:
1) Never put anything before God,
2) He gives and takes away,
3) My morning ritual may seem foreign to some, but it’s normal for me, so stick with it.
Unfamiliar. Alien. Strange. Unknown. Barbaric! These are all synonyms for the word foreign. When you think about the connotation associated with each of those words, consider how quickly or how willing you might be to embrace something or someone considered to be foreign. Most meet it with a grimace; others are curious. Some are intolerant; others greet it with love. All sorts of things could be foreign to you if you haven’t experienced it before. It could be customs, music, or celebrations — not just people. Worthy of note is that God gives us specific instructions about how we should live, and he sets expectations for how we should treat people.
For the Lord your God shows no partiality…he loves the foreigner residing among you…and you are to love those who are foreigners, for you yourselves were foreigners living in Egypt. ~Deuteronomy 10:17-19
In this instance, he’s specifically referring to the Israelites. Once Moses led them out of captivity in Egypt, he reminded them of their plight and how they should start anew in a new land. They were his chosen people, and he gave them specific instructions about all their affairs –specifically how they should engage with those already living among them.
You must not oppress foreigners. You know what it’s like to be a foreigner.
He knew that it was necessary to tell the Israelites how to treat these foreign people. All they knew was what they had experienced — cruel treatment at the hands of Pharaoh. Since we are products of our environment, we learn from our experiences. Not all lessons are good, however, so God cautioned them to eschew the ways of the Egyptians who had enslaved them for 400 years.
Just as our Father God taught his children to act appropriately, parents (as their children’s first teachers) should do the same. We pass on all of our good traits to them, but a few of our flaws are passed on as well. Intolerance is a big one in my opinion. Sometimes you don’t even realize that you espouse an intolerance for something or someone until it walks in, sits next to you, and strikes up a conversation. At least, that’s how God reveals my flaws to me. Just when I think I’ve arrived, he shows me that I need to get back on the bus and take a seat. The journey has only just begun.
When he reveals someone else’s intolerance for unfamiliar customs, I feel it’s only fair that I tell them. After all, we are His messengers. My husband is an easy target, so I’ll just use him today. I married a smart, funny man, and he is also a leader in his field. He works hard and expects others to work hard too. He has very little tolerance for people who are not like him. If you’re healthy and employed but don’t work hard, that’s foreign to him. I sent him a friendly reminder of his intolerance this morning.
Disclaimer: Trust me when I say he would do the same thing to me but in a gentler way. A head-butt with a bible verse is probably not the best way to start your day, but it got his attention.
I can’t really relate to my husband’s situation because the folks I work with give 100% every day. Some things in life are still foreign to me, but I’m learning to accept that my way isn’t the only way. I can’t effect change everywhere I go just because the customs I encounter are different from what I believe to be normal. I’ve also learned that there are times when I am the foreigner–my customs and appearance are markedly different from those around me. Try explaining natural hair to kids and adults who merely see afros as something from the 70s–part of a costume you donn for attending a 70s party. For some people of color, this is considered mockery, and it’s almost as offensive as wearing black face. I see it as a teachable moment, an opportunity to connect, a chance to bridge the crevasse that divides us. If I address it, I’m part of the solution. If I get angry or ignore it, I’m perpetuating that problem. When you know better, you do better.
Another thing that may seem foreign is where I grew up. I was raised in a place where there’s a festival for everything: Frog Festival, Yambilee Festival, Rice Festival, Swine Festival, Crawfish Festival, Cracklin Festival, Jazz Fest, Budweiser Superfest, and Boudin Festival. There’s an extensive list of festivals throughout the state that celebrates our joi d’vivre; I just highlighted a few of my favorites. My home is also a place where everyone stops to say hello, and they sit a spell and tell stories you’ve never heard before–spoken with an accent that’s foreign, but the storyteller was born right here in the United States. We immediately know if someone isn’t from around these parts if they don’t look us in the eyes and say Good morning ma’am, Good evening sir, or How’s ya’ momma and dem doin? We know they’re strangers, so we never neglect to show kindness to them (Hebrews 13:2). It becomes an instant Meet & Greet — complete with sweet tea and clever repartee. These are customs that I take with me wherever I go, and I won’t soon part with them.
What you take from this message matters to me. My intention is to remind myself and others that we don’t have to assimilate. Be who you are — no matter how foreign your customs or appearance may be. I’m grateful to be created in God’s image, but I’m even more grateful that we’re all different but have so much in common. Imagine how rich our lives would be if we took a little time to explore those things that connect us rather than what divides us.