Sometimes life feels like a work in progress. I've been living overseas, far away from friends and family - learning a new language and living in a new culture. Many activities I was involved in aren't part of my life now, and much of what I felt had defined me and my life is no longer present.
I married a man from the country that I now call home and made a conscious choice to live here with him. But life is very different. This situation is demanding of me a more permanent and unchangeable sense of home, family, friends, and identity, specifically, spiritual identity that deepens and enriches life.
I'm getting some clearer ideas. Honoring another culture and its people is different from trying to conform to it, which can lead to generalizations about national characteristics and can rob humanity of its individuality.
I want to be myself and at the same time feel connected with others. So I've needed to pray to God about how to live freely as myself while adapting to my new surroundings.
At times I've been so angry about a custom or what is expected of me. Acting from the basis of spiritual identity includes honoring customs and communicating so that I am understood, but it also includes much more.
I've been seeking to understand the heart of the real identity that belongs to everyone. Finding identity includes being identical to or like something, so I've been asking God to show me more of my Godlikeness and the Godlikeness of everyone.
Being a child of God means being humble like a child filled with wonder - fearless, innocent - ready to stand and take the first steps. This humility pushes out criticism, cynicism, and skepticism. I am much readier to look for the heart of the individuals with whom I come into contact.
At one point I was consumed with judgment at seeing a beautiful picnic area and some other open fields that were filled with trash. How could people tolerate seeing all that trash around them? How could they be so uncaring? I began to generalize about the people of this country and attach to them character traits of thoughtlessness, selfishness, and even disrespect for the law.
One day as we were driving past these areas, a deeper desire broke through this fault-finding. I realized that I had my own trashy thinking of criticism to clean up, and that prayer could help me.
So honestly and quietly I asked God how to pray about this. The word that immediately came to mind was dignity, so I used this thought to begin my prayer. Because God, Love, created each of us, our natural state of being is one of dignity, goodness, and justice. We honor our Creator and His creation by expressing thoughtfulness, care, and true appreciation of beauty and order. No one is limited or defined by cultural or national characteristics, but each of us can dignify and elevate these aspects with God-given spirituality. It is impossible that Love would ever criticize its own loving offspring.
I let these ideas dwell in my heart every time I passed the areas of trash. I also endeavored to appreciate the order and beauty I saw in people's homes, which was sometimes so different from what I was used to. I practiced being more grateful for the tender care and patience shown to me by my husband's family and friends native to this country.
I prayed and lived with these thoughts for a number of months, and I found that these ideas became larger in my thought than the criticism.
Last spring, before a fair in the picnic area, I noticed that the trash was completely picked up - all of it. By the end of the year it was still spotless. It has been greatly expanded, and people have been hired to watch over this area. The other open fields that were filled with trash have also been cleaned and fenced for new construction.
I can't say that my thought is without criticism every moment or that there aren't still areas in the city that need care, but I'm into my second year here and feel a greater appreciation for this country and its culture. But along with this, I desire to honor and value more deeply a different view - the man and woman of Love's creating - and God has blessed this desire.
The Lord seeth not as man seeth; for man looketh on the outward appearance, but the Lord
looketh on the heart.
I Samuel 16:7