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Different and Uncomfortable

June 30, 2010

Have you ever tried to complete one of those puzzles in the paper where two similar pictures are placed side by side and you are asked to find the differences?

Is it easy or hard? How many differences do you notice daily as you share with people and live in relationship with them?

A couple of months ago my pastor challenged us to consider spending some time in a place we were uncomfortable. As a church plant he wanted us to explore what we are comfortable with and where we are not comfortable.

This past weekend I worked a student conference. I have done many retreats, camps, and conferences over the years and feel that students are some of the most amazing people on earth. This one was just a little bit different for me though. This was the first event I have worked inside of the USA where I as a caucasian was the minority. In fact, I was the only caucasian at the conference.

The conference was for my East Indian friends. On Saturday afternoon we were doing an activity where we took 10 gummy bears of different colors to represent how we viewed the division of our culture between being American, Christian, and Indian. I joked with a friend that I was much more Indian than a year ago, but I still couldn’t choose a green gummy bear. I never found myself uncomfortable over the weekend, but I did recognize differences and knew there were times I did not understand or could not relate to what others were sharing.

Over this past year I have become connected with many from other races and cultures.

This is not something that make me uncomfortable, in fact it is such a joy and pleasure for me to learn from them and experience the differences and beauty of our diversity. I am learning about different foods, cultural traditions, underlying cultural struggles, and communication and relational components. I am also learning that I am somewhat unique in my acceptance and openness to people of other cultures, backgrounds, and beliefs.

My friend Cherie L. leads workshops for women where she talks about obstacles that exist toward building authentic relationships. We might think about age, gender, race, and religion, but she also brings up issues like tattoos and unpedicured toes. She openly shares about the glares and rejection she has received, and she addresses the shame we carry when we feel we are not accepted for who we are or how we look. Many people live daily trying to cover up scars, marks, or physical elements that others find unacceptable. People on both sides become uncomfortable, wishing the reality of the situation would change. I have experienced that myself and have often chosen clothing that covers things, or have not participated in something because what others would classify as “shortcomings” might become known.

I am actively seeking to live more authentically, to engage with those who are different than I am, and to reduce the places and times I find myself uncomfortable.

Today I might be uncomfortable if certain people sat down next to me on a train or at lunch, but I hope as I continue to be intentional that I will engage them in conversations more and through that I am sure I will learn they are a lot like I am, and we just might have something in common to share.

What obstacles to authentic relationships have you experienced?

Where do you find yourself uncomfortable?  What have you done to stretch yourself and grow?

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. July 7, 2010 7:03 am

    Just love this post, Sherie. As you described your ministry, I found myself reflecting on just how often I avoid uncomfortable places. God is stretching me all the time and breaking down walls. Why does there seem to be so many? It just goes to prove the ‘onion’ analogy, doesn’t it.

    “I am also learning that I am somewhat unique in my acceptance and openness to people of other cultures, backgrounds, and beliefs.” – Yes, most people, including myself, are so indifferent or afraid of the awkwardness or even helplessness in walking into a completely different culture. You are an exception and I believe it is truly a gift from the Lord that you freely do what you do with such reckless abandon.

    “Intentional” is such a great word when we apply it to loving others. Jesus loves us intentionally. When you spoke about loving others intentionally, the first thought I had was how He intentionally will seat us next to a complete stranger; someone who we are supposed to meet and develop some form of relationship with. His plan is to use us in that person’s life, or even use them in our life. Usually, it is mutual. Intentional. God is intentional.

    You’ve blessed me greatly as I came across your post first thing this morning. All good things are a gift from the Lord. ~ Peace, my dear friend!

    • July 7, 2010 10:26 am

      Thanks for being part of my inspiration to open my eyes and heart to others.

      I like what you said about feeling not just awkwardness, but helplessness. I am learning that is a big issue behind why people may choose not to enter into relationships, especially messy situations. Helplessness is such an awful feeling and it can be heartwrenching to want to care but not know what to do. I love it when I see people being willing to let their hearts be broken to care like this, or even to admit they don’t have a clue how to care.

      Sherie

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