Monday, September 09, 2013

Spiritual Updates

(Note to reader: I initially wrote this post as a call to local priests and deacons who may want to support my trip. I present it now for anyone and everyone who has chosen to support this journey of mine. I cannot thank you enough.) 

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.  For God did not send his son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.  John 3:16-17

Love each other as I have loved you.  Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.  John 15:12-13  

These words are a charge, a challenge, and a call. God loved the world by giving his Son for us. Jesus loved us by giving his life for us. Jesus challenges us to love one another just as he showed love to us. Are we meant to give our lives to one another? Are we meant to sacrifice our own well-being and our own health for those around us?

As your years in seminary surely taught you, Jesus speaks in metaphors. The seeds cast in rock, weeds, and good soil are those of us raised in different environments. The goats and the lambs are those who showed compassion and those who did not. And compassion to whom, you might ask? Well, Jesus says that when you show compassion to someone else, that is symbolic of showing compassion to Jesus himself. With metaphors aplenty, Jesus teaches the ways we are supposed to live our life as devout Christians.

So back to the question at hand…is Jesus teaching us that we are supposed to sacrifice our own life or the life of our son for the sins of others? Although we can never know for sure, I believe that is not what he teaches us. But what could this metaphor possibly mean? How can we not take this teaching literally?

What would it mean to give yourself fully for another person? What does it take to accomplish such a feat? As my interpretation goes, it means understanding them entirely. Understanding what they need and want, who they are and where they come from. That same understanding needs to be as free of your own biases as possible. It’s just as important to understand yourself as well. You’ll need to know what you need and want and what your capabilities are if you’ll ever be able to love as dearly as Christ loved his people.

My first two weeks in Cape Town have taught me to slow down and truly try to understand the people around me. Not only is there a language/accent barrier, but even the English words we all use do not hold the same meaning universally. While it can be embarrassing to ask someone to repeat themselves more than two or three times, it helps my understanding that much more. No one has gotten fed up with my constant straining to understand and I am starting to get better! The accents here are marvelous and all so different, but I’m starting to not hear them and instead am listening to the words being spoken, not how they’re being spoken.

I’m not sure I’ve accomplished my full understanding of the culture here, but I am well on my way! In the office I’ve noticed an incredible emphasis on community time. While we work hard in our offices, we take breaks often to sip tea and coffee and enjoy each other’s company. Whenever I have my headphones in because I don’t want to disturb everyone around me with my music, I feel like I’m taking myself away from the office. There is constant communication between all the different offices here and constant celebration of one another’s work. I’m starting to lose my United States work ethic and am beginning to appreciate breaks during the day. Although I still want to just finish every task I’ve been given as quickly as possible, I can see the incredible benefits of being together at the office and taking time to be with each other and not just with our work.

If you ever get the opportunity to create a work environment, I strongly suggest you make breaks a part of the daily agenda. This office is happier for it and works that much harder after tea breaks. I know I plan on implementing breaks for myself in whatever work I find myself doing next. If that means scheduling classes and shifts accordingly, I will do it! Emphasis on community makes for a fantastic and productive work environment.

I wonder if God giving us their only son was a way to understand us. I wonder if God watching us from a far felt hypocritical to them, so they decided to get to know us in order to truly help us and make a difference in our lives. I wonder if God likes how we’ve turned out and appreciates our connections in communities and families. All this I wonder, but I also know that my God is proud of us. Maybe not all of us at all times of the day, but I know that God loves who we are and who we have grown up to be. I know that God supports us as long as we support each other.

Now, I haven’t been ordained and I’ve certainly not been through years of seminary and nor do I plan, so here I will stop. But whether you are religious, spiritual, atheistic, agnostic, or questioning, continue to do well for your community and support those around you. Give a hug or reassuring smile today. Thank your partner, best friend, spouse, boss, colleague, or dog for being in your life today and making you happy. These little supports and appreciations can make all the difference. I know in mine they certainly have.

Thank you for your support and love. I literally could not have done it without any of you.

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