The year I graduated from college, I left home to spend two years in the Ivory Coast. Being a French major, I worked in a publication house for French-speaking West Africa. Now, thirty-some years later, I look back at my journals and see how I’ve changed or haven’t changed.
I wrote about thinking how hard it was to realize I was actually in Africa, thousands of miles from home, and then being hit with a sudden bought of homesickness, feeling completely lost and alone. I was surrounded by masses of people, who were so different from me in color, ideas, life and goals. How was I to serve God as the outsider?
God would remind me through a common smile or laugh that I was not all that different from those around me. All peoples experience moments of joy along with those of sadness and grief. While our hopes and aspirations may be for different things, we still have the common longing for something more, something better.
Our humanity draws us together. God uses these similarities to help us build bridges in conversation and relationship. When I left that country two years later, I found myself more at home there than in my own hometown.
I was still an outsider.
Then the cycle did it all over again. I moved away, yet again, to another region, another people, another language and religion. The insider became the outsider; the outsider became the insider.
I came home again and became the outsider yet again.
I’m grateful, however, that my years of travel and struggle with new cultures has given me compassion for those who are uprooted and forced to leave their native lands. It’s also helped me to see the mutual characteristics and needs in all peoples, no matter the background or language. Finally, it’s helped me realize that what makes me an outsider is not my skin color, language or background, but my relationship with Christ. I can be as much an outsider in my hometown as in any of the places I’ve lived or traveled.
I’m comfortable in my outsider status, because it keeps me rooted in that which is to be my true home, my future home — the home I’ll have with Jesus.
Where’s your true resting place? In this world or far beyond? I pray that you will find peace in being the outsider wherever you live, knowing the day will come, when his children will all be insiders with him.
Grace and Peace