Sunday, April 14, 2013

The Blessings of Not Fitting In

"It's like entering a different world," I commented to a recent short-term visitor as she prepared to fly back home to the U.S., following a three-month stay in Uganda.

Leaving Africa and re-entering the western realm is more like going from one planet to another and not just crossing the globe. Life is so, so different between these two worlds.

There is also the challenge of not fully belonging to either place. I love Uganda and so much about it - the people, the beautiful landscape, the ministry, the food - but no matter how long I spend here, I will never be fully "Ugandan."

I also love my home country - the U.S. -and my dear family and friends, as well as familiar comforts and conveniences that are there. But after spending several years away from it, I don't feel I quite fit, even when I visit home for weeks or months at a time.

Many missionaries feel that in light of these realities, a "third culture" is created - a mix of both worlds. We are not fully American anymore, but we are not fully of our host country either. It's not that we don't try to adapt, but we have changed and are changing.

I find this to be a frequent challenge - wondering where I "fit." However, this may not necessarily a bad predicament.

I think shifting back and forth between two cultures has helped me to value what is truly important - people and God's work or even more simply - lovin' God and lovin' others.

I have realized I need little to live on to be fully content. With food, clothes...and coffee be content. Okay, just joking about the coffee part. :)

Indeed, joy is not rooted in circumstances or possessions or even who is near you, but is grounded in a living and growing relationship with your God. This divine love fills and overflows us in a desire to share it with others, building relationships with them and serving as bridges so they may be introduced to our Awesome and Loving God and begin building their own relationships with Him.

If we are consumed with other things, we may be wasting our precious time, energy and resources. We may be missing multiple opportunities presented to us daily in a myriad of places.

I don't feel entirely "at home" in either my home or host culture, which makes me long for my eternal home even more. As I mourn separation on this earth, my heart yearns for an eternity of being together - with my God and with the many people I already love and others who I look forward to meeting and loving.

As we face challenges, pain, sorrow, grief, etc. here on this earth, our hearts should eagerly await the day when our Savior returns and takes us all to the "Home" He has been preparing for us for a long, long time.

As we become more and more uncomfortable and dissatisfied and less "at home," let us look more eagerly to that day when we will be finally headed for our "True Home."

And let's make sure we take as many people with us as we can.

"I have given them your word and the world has hated them, for they are not of the world any more than I am of the world. My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one. They are not of the world, even as I am not of it. Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth. As you sent me into the world, I have sent them into the world." - John 17:14-18

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  1. Great insight, Ruthie!!

  2. Ruthie this both encouraged me and and made me a little sad as well! I can relate in the sense that sometimes I feel as though this world is SO different from what my heart longs for, yet I often find myself grasping at the comforts of it and not being able to imagine heaven. I am so proud of you and the work you are doing, how you share your heart and how you continue to serve. I pray that God gives you comfort and the feeling of "home" through love wherever you may be, as well as joy for one day seein your future home in heaven! Hugs!

  3. Marmee, thank you for your nice comment!
    Jamie, thank you for reading and commenting, too. Your comment reminds me of 1 Cor. 13:12 about how we see in a mirror dimly, but one day we shall see "face-to-face." We really only have a dim or partial vision of the fullness of God's glorious kingdom, but what we have we must firmly believe and hold on to until that day when we shall "know fully" even as we "have been known." Thank you for the blessings and prayers, too! :)

  4. I have felt the same way so many times. When Dave and I return from Uganda and we always reassess like here. When people complain about pot holes we always roll our eyes... there they were pot roads. And when churches add piles and piles of money just so things look socially acceptable, special, we think of the churches that were made from the most basic elements, and a few that were bamboo walls and thin tin roofs. And a bit on the other side, of course, when enjoying piles of cereal choices, lower gas costs, cleaner buses, etc. So different... but hearts for both sides, all people. That's what counts.

    Good thinking, sharing, blessing.

  5. Yes, Joanne, switching between places and cultures can definitely give you a different perspective. I especially like the last past of your comment, "So different...but hearts for both sides, all people. That's what counts." So, so good! :)