September 21, 2006
How to Feel at HOME in a Foreign Country
I won’t take the credit for writing the book on “How to Feel at HOME in a Foreign Country”. However, I would like to point you to the ONE who did.
That would be GOD.
There are so many books in the bible that speak of living in a foreign land but there is one that speaks to my heart through the faith testimony of one single woman. The book of Ruth in the bible (Old Testament) is a true story of a young widow from Moab who follows her mother-in-law from her homeland to a foreign land, Judah, the land of the Jews. I would encourage you to read the story – my summary does not do it justice! It is important to note that all the men in the family have died or been killed. Ruth has lost her husband, father-in-law, and brother-in-law but through it all she continues to pledge allegiance to her mother-in-law regardless of the personal cost. Naomi, Ruth’s mother-in-law, is a God-fearing women and has obviously been an awesome example of Godliness. Ruth has been so impressed with the God of her mother-in-law, that she has chosen to turn from the ways of her ancestors to follow Him. As a testimony to her faith, Ruth trusts that God has a plan for her and that plan involves become a foreigner in Judah.
We live at a time when world travel is easy for so many. A time when going shopping or for coffee will more than likely put us face to face with someone from another part of the world. Within the past few weeks I have had the pleasure of speaking face to face with people from Australia, Poland, Iran, India, Syria, Sri Lanka, Korea, and Slovenia. I love to hear stories of life in countries other than the ones in which I have lived. I am trying to be a better listener as I think this helps me to settle into my ‘foreign land’. It helps me to see that, like Ruth, God has plans for me that will always take me out of my comfort zone. The challenges are part of the journey, part of God’s plan to stretch me and change me to be more Him in whose image I was created. From my study, I have learnt that Ruth was an excellent listener. She took all this new information on board, processed it and then made some great big decisions. She married a Jew, she followed his mother to Judah, she believed in the wisdom of those who loved her. She did not try to go it alone but she did put in a lot of hard work.
Ruth certainly did not have a large circle of friends. Nor did she have any of her immediate family with her (not to mention the lack of internet, email, webcams, digital cameras, etc). Instead, Ruth had a few people who loved God and loved her dearly and could see her value as a follower of God. I have several friends in my ‘foreign land’ who are heaven-sent. They call me, pray for me, study the bible with me, love my small family, spend time with me, and laugh/cry with me. These people are my true church – the body of Christ living together.
Ruth was a model of humility. She didn’t assume to know better than those around her. She didn’t snub the beliefs of her mother-in-law. She was humble enough to realise it wasn’t all about her. Let’s face it, people like you better when you approach them in a humbler manner. There is always a lot to learn in a new place so I think the best tactic is to relax and let is all sink in. Appreciate that there will be cultural differences, inconsistencies in language and possible changes in your standard of living.
God tells us in the bible that he will not test us beyond what we can endure. Ruth was a woman of endurance. God blessed Ruth richly for her faith. Now, I am not trying to equate my faith with that held by Ruth. Instead, I seek to grow toward the beauty I see in this Moabite woman. I strive daily for peace in my busy mind. I definitely believe it is a daily decision to settle into the life that has been given you: health, wealth, loved ones, and nation.
I think the best news of the day is that God tells us we are all foreigners! Yes, it is true. If you have read the bible (not necessarily the whole big book, but start with the Gospels if you don’t know where to begin) you will know that God is preparing a place called Heaven. Whoever believes that Jesus died so that we may live has the hope of eternal life with God in heaven. For real.
What have I learnt from Ruth regarding making my home in a foreign land (or, for that matter, wherever I might be living)?
TRUST IN GOD. God loves me more than anyone here in this world.
REMEMBER GOD IS THE CREATOR. God created me and He created this world. God has created other believers to fellowship with, care for, and love.
KNOW THAT GOD LOVES ME HERE, NOW, AND FOREVER. Most importantly, God has deposited the Holy Spirit in my heart as a promise that He will always be with me. A promise that no matter where I am or what I am doing, I am His into Eternity.
Visit the “How to” writing project over at ProBlogger.