Two years ago, I flew over the ocean to Africa with some super amazing people, to meet some amazing people. My heart beat with excitement and my eyes widened in fear of the unknown. I had lain awake many nights trying to picture what it would be like when we landed in Zambia. What the people would be like, the culture, the landscape. I had covered all the images that my mind had tucked away over the years. But pictures don’t prepare you for stepping foot into a place where nothing is familiar.
From the moment my feet hit the soil in Livingston, my eyes began consuming and my lips became silent. I felt even the smallest differences in my very being, the trees…the fruit and veggies splayed out along the road on our long drive from the airport. The dirt roads for miles. The “bathroom breaks” that consisted of stopping along the side of the road near tall grass and “men on the left, women on the right”.
It was all different and my soul screamed “You need this, old girl. You need shaken out of your ways!”
I don’t remember how long it was after we arrived at Mission of Love Orphanage that this next moment took place, but it is the moment I want to share about in this post. There was a meal that ended up changing my life.
I just remember sitting near the local women, being asked if I liked fish. “Yes I love fish!” Tuna, tilapia, salmon… but then these crunchy little fish bodies and heads landed on my plate and I wondered “Do I really like fish after all?” Along with the fish came Nshima, a mushy corn substance that it seems no traditional meal there is without. And most often accompanied with fried cabbage or beans.
We washed our hands over a bucket
of water. I then watched as the other women mashed the Nshima up in their fist, pressed it and used it to scoop the other food up. They made it look fun and even though I had the option of a fork…”When in Rome…”. So I mashed and I scooped and I shoveled food into my mouth with my damp fingers. I can’t lie, it was liberating! It was one of many moments when my way of life would come nose to nose with the truth that it was not the only way of life.
I know, I know, of all the stories, why do I tell this one? Of all the amazing moments and memories and people, why this? Because this is what I thought of tonight as I my mind was whirling through all it’s anxious thoughts and all it’s worries about life and measuring up to certain standards.
You see, too often we approach life with an ingrained and often anxiety producing set of assumptions. We assume we must do it this way because it is just the way! How everyone else does it and how it has always been done. And we never once question if it MUST be done that way. We face life with a “We don’t do that here. We can’t live like that, say that, wear that, go without that” attitude. We must have this, we won’t give that up, we couldn’t think of saying that, we wouldn’t dare do something that NO ONE DOES!
And I’m not saying we should all eat with our hands …although I highly recommend the experience. The thing is, after sticking my fingers in my mouth, crunching down on little fishy heads, wearing the same clothes over and over. Showering less, walking more, sitting in a church with a dirt floor and being with some amazing people that have chosen to live their life in this invironment,…after experiencing life that was not anywhere within the status quo of my country, I realized that status quo is often just a line of fear that the fearful fight to reach and dread to cross.
And tonight I was fighting to reach that line again. But this story came to my mind. And I needed to remember it. Maybe you did too.
When I came back home after Africa, I was not the same. I felt more free than I ever had. The things we think that we have to have….we mostly don’t actually have to have. The standards we follow and try to measure up to are just a tiny piece of this world. The status quo, the normal, all that stuff we freak out about is mostly stuff that only exists in our little bubble. Eating with my hands was just an introduction to how diverse life is and how narrow sighted we get here.
And what is so crazy is to realize that in every culture, God is there. His love and presence dwells in all corners of the earth. We don’t have a “White God” or an English speaking Jesus. We don’t get to be Christians that make Christ American. We can not afford to let the style of our culture dictate to us what God wants of our lives. He may call us to step out of the norm, to jump into the unknown. To follow Him into the wild. To say what no one else is saying and live like no one else around us is living.And He might even ask us to eat with our hands. 😉 Whatever it is, it will be amazing!