I am ignorant. I am naïve. My mind is narrow and my knowledge is limited. I see the unfamiliar as threatening. The unknown as alarming. In my bubble of consistency and uniformity I am safe.
But I’m slowly learning what lies beyond the unfamiliar, uncertain and uncommon is extraordinary.
If we always colour within the lines, if we only stick with what we know, we risk missing out on the fullness of life.
When we step outside our comfort zone, when we sit and listen to those who look and sound nothing like us…we experience something beautiful. We realize that we really aren’t that different after all.
We’ve recently moved into a new neighbourhood and I decided that I would like to take this fresh start as an opportunity to get to know my neighbours properly. Previously, I’ve missed that acceptable window in which to become acquainted with my neighbours and so I lived beside them for years without ever knowing their names or their stories.
This time had to be different. So I started small. I baked a batch of apple and cinnamon muffins, nothing flashy or obnoxious and we went over to introduce ourselves.
We were greeted by a smiling Chinese woman and her daughter. I rambled an introduction nervously before realizing that she didn’t speak English and couldn’t understand a word I’d just said. Fortunately, her daughter translated for us and kindly ushered us in for a cup of tea.
We stepped into their lounge and sat gingerly on the edge of their couch while they boiled the kettle and pulled cups and teapots together. The TV was blaring in a language foreign to my ears. There were strange figures forming a shrine on the mantelpiece. The cup was tiny and made of glass which burnt my fingers as I picked it up.
I felt myself shuffling uncomfortably as one who has traveled infrequently and only to countries which speak English.
But as we sipped our tea, breathing in the sweet scent and sharing in this sacred ceremony our guards started slipping. Our differences became less noticeable. Our exquisite humanity knitted us together.
We began to share our stories, where we came from, what we love to do, what makes us unique and what makes us the same. We sat and chatted in broken English and messy Chinese and came away an hour later with two new friends and a dinner invitation for later that week.
And it was over dinner that I realized the significance of food and friendship in our lives. That something as simple as a batch of muffins can enable two families to build bridges and forge a relationship.
Because gathered around the table with the pink plastic cover, the mismatching chairs, the delicately painted bowls and thin wooden chopsticks, we were a picture of heaven. Regardless of our nationality, native tongue or chosen religion, we gathered here.
It is around a table that communion becomes real.
“Here we break bread and receive one another. We set aside our differences, our grievances and we are one. This is love. This is Jesus. This is heaven touching earth.”
There’s a lot of talk these days about right and wrong. We search relentlessly for answers, for truth, for the moral high ground.
But all of this seems to just lead us further into segregation. We are divided by our opinions and our pride. We can’t see past our narrowminded views and we can’t step down from our high horses.
There are plenty of people who go through the motions, who obey the regulations, who colour within the lines.
But when we’re so busy polishing our church shoes and pointing fingers, we miss the big picture.
We are all the same and infinitely different. We carry separate dreams, fears and failings. But we are bound to one another in love. That’s the way it was always meant to be.
Beneath all of our arrogance, insecurities, doubts and fragility is a beating heart seeking connection.
Too often we let things stop us from reaching out, from crossing the street or baking a batch of muffins. But I’ve tasted and seen that God is good. I know now that this way is the best way.
“Welcoming strangers and making friends. Picking up the stragglers and inviting them in. Humbling ourselves and letting others go first.”
That’s what Jesus did and that’s what he’s asked us to do too.
And as much as I’d like to keep my head down and my blinds drawn… I simply cannot ignore this call. And now I’ve got a taste of it I really can’t stop.
I keep getting these heart nudges to be the one to say hello, to ask someone to join in, to give without getting anything in return.
And what I’ve found is as much as I give, it’s returned to me pressed down, shaken together, running over. That’s the way it is, we give the little we have and get immeasurably more in return.
So we can play it safe, we can colour within the lines and do only what is necessary or we can move beyond our bubbles of consistency and uniformity. We can move towards the unknown, uncommon and unfamiliar because it is there that we find one of those delightful thin places where heaven meets earth.
That’s the gift of our diversity.
P.S. Welcome to the new blog! I hope you like what you’ve seen so far. In this space I’m going to be writing about living intentionally, building relationships and finding encouragement for your everyday life and I’d love to have you stick around for more. Feel free to Follow my blog with Bloglovin, connect on Facebook or follow along behind the scenes on Instagram.