My first memories are from Germany. My dad was in the Army, so I lived in Western Germany twice before I turned 12. Growing up in a foreign land, living under the threat of nuclear war, having to stay inside because of Chernobyl, watching soldiers with assault rifles protect my elementary school because of the threat of terrorism, and entering puberty with a deep affinity for Deutschland sometimes contribute to me feeling like an outsider in America. Whether it be people unlike us or aspects of ourselves we dislike or find uncomfortable, I think one of the most important questions to reflect and act upon today is: What do we do in the face of difference and how can we make more space for the other?
I find this compelling not only because of the immigrant crisis/debate we’re wrestling with as nations and communities, but also due to the diversity and otherness that’s within each of us. With that in mind, to get us started, I invite you to read, chew on, ponder, reread, and hold my first 7 sentences below in your heart:
There’s More Than Enough.
Where fear sees scarcity, Love sees abundance.
If “they” suffer, I suffer.
Ignoring, sending away, or shaming people unlike us and/or aspects of ourselves we don’t prefer leads to greater disfunction, disunity, and relational (dis)ease down the road.
Everyone, in our entirety, belongs.
The more together we are, the higher we rise.
The Divine, in the Judeo-Christian tradition, is the God of the outsiders, foreigners, weirdos, enemies, and people (or aspects of ourselves) we dislike, Loving us ALL equally and infinitely.
Loving (as in tangibly caring/providing for and training) the poor, orphans, widows, and foreigners/immigrants is the most repeated commandment in the Bible. Along those lines, one of my favorite stories in the text is Ruth’s. Her tale not only shows us how God directs us to make space for and give provision to foreign immigrants, but how one who would have been considered an enemy (Ruth was a Moabite, a people group at the “bottom” of Israel’s list, much like Syrians or Iranians are to Americans today) was not only included by those following the Spirit, but Ruth also became the grandmother of Israel’s most revered leader, King David.
I think it’s also quite relevant that God’s “welfare program” in the Bible wasn’t so much one of handouts, as it was handUPS. When the farmers gathered grain and such to make meals from, they were required to leave a certain amount behind for the aforementioned outsiders to collect for themselves. What is more, in that culture it would have gone without saying that marginalized people would have had a place to stay, as hospitality came before comfort.
For me this blog is about both literal immigrants and the foreignness that’s within each of us, and seeing the interconnectedness between the two. Generally speaking, nobody dreams of becoming an immigrant. Uprooting and leaving their culture, language, family, and friends, exchanging the known for the unknown wasn’t on the bucket list of people trying to enter our countries today. No sir. Predominately, foreigners try to move to a new country for reasons of safety and provision. They’re trying to escape unsafe situations and/or a lack of the essentials for a life worth living. It’s all about survival.
I believe the “foreigners” within us arrive for much the same reason. Our anxieties, inner-critics, tendency to judge others, predisposition to make cutting remarks, gossiping, addictions, insecurities, and other parts of ourselves we tend to dislike and shun are often defense mechanisms developed as a response to losses, traumas, and other life experiences. Our good and natural survival instinct, the reason aliens move to new countries, is the same reason we develop inner coping mechanisms to feel safe, included, and well in the face of life’s storms.
Something about myself I’ve been working on changing for years is my need to win. While victory isn’t bad, NEEDING to triumph and be the best is NOT in line with my values. This impulse, though, I’m discovering was a helpful and normal response to the hand life dealt me. Living in a foreign country, moving a good bit, having my friends also move away, my parents getting divorced, the threat of terrorism, the fear of nuclear war, being bullied, and other experiences combined to make me feel like an outsider and outcast. This deep insecurity combined with my being smart to create a cocktail of feeling I need to win, because winners are included, esteemed, and loved.
While part of me wants to put my competitive nature into an “internment camp” or on the other side of a “wall”, the real me sees not only how this impulse belongs, but how there’s also more than enough spaces and places for it. I can give it a handUP of sorts by using it as fuel to be the best version of myself! Recognizing this truth within me, also helps me honor the Truth outside: Everyone belongs and there’s more than enough to go around, because life is a team sport, we’re ALL part of ONE human race, and togetherness is awesomeness!
While WAY more could be said on this topic, I want to honor your time, so will simply ask: What do you think?
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MUCH Love and Many Hugs,