When I was a young person coming back to faith in Jesus in the mid 70’s I was taught I had the answers to the questions of life. My experience as I traversed different parts of the world and met different kinds of people that this was not all together true. Yes, my young life had changed as I made following and learning about Jesus a priority, but I had a lot to learn from the people I met. Yes, I could offer prayers and encouragement from my perspective and I did see people encouraged, and even recovered from sickness. Yet, I learned to be quick to listen, slow to speak. Well, I had to be, because I was learning a new language! One of the many gifts of learning a new language. I also was learning and seeing beautiful things in the culture and people around me that I had not learned in my own culture. I learned to look for what good things God was already doing in a person’s life and in their culture. I learned to affirm those good things. Of course every culture has it’s light side and dark side, including my own. Now as I look back on those early years I think it was arrogant and naive to believe I had all the answers. Is it possible that Christians are hoarding Jesus? Saying and teaching that the way I interpret his life and teaching is the only way seems a bit narrow and exclusive. As if I know all the mysteries of Christ who died for the sin of the world, the very same who is reconciling all things, all people, all creation to himself. I do believe those points. I just don’t pretend to know what they mean exactly or how it will happen.
Here in the form of a poem are some reflections from Mark 9:38 – 41 John said to Him, “Teacher, we saw someone casting out demons in Your name, we tried to prevent him because he was not following us.” But Jesus said, “Do not hinder him, for there is no one who will perform a miracle in My name and be able soon afterward to speak evil of Me…”
For many years my family and I lived in China. Even though I had the basics of the Chinese language, there were so many things to learn each day, not only about the language but also the customs and culture of the Peoples around me. We were fortunate to live in an area where there were several ethnic groups. This made for lots of diverse and rich experiences.
Everyday when I would step out of my apartment building I would be greeted by different people in different ways. In Chinese language school we had learned that “Ni hao” was the traditional greeting. The only thing was that it was usually I who would say that, but the locals would say something different, such as “Have you eaten enough?” or “Going to the market are you?” or “Where are you going?” or “Where are you coming from?” It took me awhile to figure it out but, I think stating the obvious or asking an obvious question was the greeting. One year we came back from America after the birth of our little baby girl. Each day when I stepped out I would hear over and over again: “Oh, your baby isn’t wearing enough clothes!” So the next day I would try to bundle her up a bit more. It didn’t seem to matter because I would hear the same thing every day, especially from the Grannies. It wasn’t until a particularly warm, sunny, early spring day that it dawned on me. I was sure I had her bundled up enough and I knew a little sunshine would be good for her, so I wasn’t prepared for the usual: “Your baby isn’t wearing enough clothes!” In fact I kind of lost it! “What do you mean she isn’t wearing enough clothes??? Look how sunny and warm it is, and I have her all bundled up anyways!” When I saw the confused stare on this particular Granny’s face, then I realized she was just saying “good morning” to me. So after that experience I would calmly remind myself when ever I heard that particular phrase that they were just saying hi!
This was right around the same time that I noticed my 4-year-old son had his own particular greeting. He and his friends were playing out in front of our apartment. The young girl who helped me make lunch called me over to the window and pointed. It was the time of day when the teachers came back to their homes for lunch. Many of them had stacks of hot naan in their arms. My son was putting his hand out and my generous neighbors walking by were pulling off pieces of naan and giving it to him!