Fit Faith: Lifestyle: Foreign Familiarity

I was in Israel for two weeks, staying in three different hotels. I knew my days would be long, filled with unforeseeable wonders. I was leading a women’s group, so I wanted to be prepared for each day full of questions, needs, and personality differences. That meant spending some time allowing God to ground me, so each morning I got up earlier than most others and went for a walk. I was in the third hotel the longest, nearly a week, so it’s where I got into the most consistent routine. Every day, I’d walk from our kibbutz to the Old City.

There was part of me that still felt like a foreigner. I was definitely an observer. I loved watching people going about their daily lives, opening their shops and carrying fresh breads and fruit to set up for the day. People walked their dogs, cars lined the roads carrying people to work, and children walked to their schools. People greeted me on the street, usually in Hebrew. I had learned enough to be able to respond, but I was fairly certain they knew I was a foreigner just the same.

There was also a part of me that felt I belonged there. Some of it was because I simply felt “at home” in Israel, as if a homing device had at some point been planted inside of me, and while I had been unaware of it all my life, it clicked into place once my feet hit Israeli soil. Part of my belonging was because I had found my way around the area of Jerusalem in which I was staying. It didn’t take me long to find a regular, safe route to walk every day. As I repeated the path, I saw similar faces and places. I felt I was a part of the morning routine and traffic.

I slid into the flow of life on the streets of Jerusalem. While I likely stood out to some, I didn’t see any indication that people looked at me any differently than anyone else out and about in the mornings. Perhaps it’s because people in Israel are so diverse. I could set aside the fact I was walking on holy ground and appreciate that I was walking among diverse people: people who were struggling with finances, relationships, jobs, conflicts, and faith. Just like me or anyone else. We can look around and appreciate diversity while acknowledging similarities. No one person is exactly like another, but we can certainly find commonalities.

As I walked alongside and crossed paths with others, my heart seemed to beat a familiar heartbeat with those around me. I felt connected. I was doing life among familiar strangers. There was a connection despite my foreign citizenship.

The Jewish law had many commands and rules, but Christ ended that law. His purpose was to make the two groups of people become one new people in him and in this way make peace. It was also Christ’s purpose to end the hatred between the two groups, to make them into one body, and to bring them back to God. Christ did all this with his death on the cross. (Ephesians 2:15-16)

Be attentive today. Notice those you see as different from you. Do you draw a firm line in the sand to separate yourself – or the other person?

Erase the line and look for similarities. Even when you don’t have a long-term relationship with someone, every interaction you have can be significant. God intends for you to be intentional about life. Live it alongside him. Live it alongside the people he brings into your life. Whether you’re walking side by side or simply cross paths with someone else, you each have purpose in God. He’s passionately pursuing you…and those who are doing life around you.

Get On The Same Page

At the beginning of the year, my friend gave me a book after realizing she had two copies. It’s a one-year devotional for couples. Tim and I didn’t think we’d consistently sit together at the same time to read the day’s devotion, so we decided to try something we knew we could maintain. Tim usually reads while drinking coffee in the morning, so he’d leave the book under his phone to remind him to read in the morning. After he reads, he’d place the book at my place at the table as a reminder to me. Then I’d return it to the place where his phone charges. Our plan worked, and we’ve been consistent.

We don’t sit side-by-side, but we’re still on the same page at least once during the day. Hopefully, it’s more than once, but at least we know we share one foundational piece in our day. We typically don’t discuss what we read. By the time we’re together for an extended time, it’s evening, and morning devotion time seems like ancient history. But sometimes when we’re walking together, Tim will bring up something that challenged or encouraged him, and it will springboard a discussion.

It’s important to be on the same page – whether with your spouse or others consistently in your daily life. Being on the same page doesn’t mean you agree on everything or take the same path. If you set your priority lists side by side, you’d likely see differences, but you should find one thing in common: You’re making your relationship a priority. You’re trying to find common ground with someone.

With all the pressures and demands of daily life, it’s easy to drift apart. Without intentional effort, relationships atrophy into chaos, or at least disinterest. Differences are often highlighted while similarities are ignored or understated.

Tim and I are similar in many ways, but there are definitely differences, and we can polarize each other in the differences. Early in our marriage, we loved to discuss a wide variety of topics. Along came children, and we discussed parenting. There’s always something we can discuss. As we begin the discussion, we might agree on all but one or two points. As we continue to focus on those things we disagree on, the chasm grows. Little by little, we step away from each other, creating distance. We can end up feeling much more different than we actually are.

Differences aren’t bad…when we respect the other person despite the differences. In some cases, we need to hold each other accountable because of the differences. The problem isn’t difference, but distance. When we find common ground with each other, we have to move closer. There might still be many differences, but the distance lessens. We have a commonality as our focus instead of a widening chasm.

Are there dividing chasms in your relationships? Today is the day to devote to getting on the same page.

Therefore if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others. Philippians 2:1-4