10 May 2011

The Stranger Inside

I don't know how You love me like You do;
It's so good to belong with You.
And in the places I'm a stranger to,
It's so good to belong with you. 
 -Remedy Drive

These are the lyrics that brought tears to my eyes as I ran on a treadmill, overlooking the ocean. It was the culmination of a lot of things, really. My natural tendency is to hold my emotions down, like a balloon in a swimming pool. I know they're down there, but I can't really see them, and it's much safer for them to stay down there. Running is dangerous, therefore, because it gives me a chance to think and talk with God. What's even more dangerous is when He talks back.

He'd started me thinking about my place in the world through a quote by Robert Louis Stevenson: "There are no foreign lands. It is the traveler only who is foreign." I've been feeling foreign lately...not that Haiti is foreign to me, but that I am foreign to her. Walking down a dusty back road last week, two teenage girls took my picture with a cell phone. Our yard guy thinks our house should resemble Fort Knox, complete with video cameras. Haitian directness still leaves me stammering sometimes...one of my students wanted to know what time of day my husband and I have sex. (I told him he could ask David that question.)

And on a treadmill, in my "home country," I was feeling more foreign than ever. I'd been warned several times over, but didn't want to believe it. "When you leave and come back," they said, "you'll find you don't fit anywhere anymore." And looking back, I can't see how I could have avoided it. After all, I spend most of my time thinking about things most people don't give a second thought. I haven't seen the TV shows you've seen. The music that's new to me is probably old to you. The number of places "I am a stranger to" is growing, not shrinking.

And yet on that treadmill, in a moment of hot, sweaty reflection, those song lyrics reminded me that God loves the stranger, and I too am called to love the stranger, even when I find myself one. I need to take care of the stranger inside and remind her that she belongs with God...and therefore belongs everywhere. I need to be patient with her when she hurts...because sometimes, it does hurt to realize that I'll never truly get used to being a stranger.

But is it possible that this is one of those paradoxes that God seems to love so much? That the last will be first? That those who lose their lives will find it? And that those who are strangers find out what it means to belong better than anyone?

I hope so.

Thanks for your prayers for a great vacation--it was.

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