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celebrating freedom

5 July 2012
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“for freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.” – galatians 5:1

the other day, i had a rather embarrassing encounter with my own american-ness.

dan and i were at a “department store” in town and had made our selection. this store employs a particularly inefficient system, so we proceeded to take our slip of paper to the cashier, waiting to pay and receive our items. in america, stores generally have narrow aisles lined with candy bars to help customers line up in an orderly fashion. once in line, no one dares to elbow their way to the front or reach over another person’s shoulder to place their items on the counter. but i am not in america.

i squeezed my way into “line” (four or five people huddled around the counter) only to have the cashier help a lady with TWO slips of paper who got there after me. i was annoyed, but not angry. then, after waiting my turn semi-patiently, a man reached over my shoulder to place a few drinks on the counter. and can you guess what happened? the cashier took them and ignored me! my cry of “i was here first!” was met with a disinterested “don’t worry about it. he only had two items.” with an exasperated sigh (i had already been waiting FOREVER) i tossed my cash on the counter (it was even exact change!) and said “that’s just impolite.” we considered leaving the store when the cashier refused to admit his error, but we stayed, paid, and took our items.

it only took about 30 seconds after leaving the store for me to regret both my attitude and my actions (because, if you can believe it, according to the culture here i was the rude one in that scenario) but it took all day for me to stop dwelling on the INJUSTICE and the ABSURDITY of living in a place where poor customer service is acceptable (even if i wasn’t actually in a hurry).

yesterday, i started reading a book about interpersonal relationships in a cross-cultural setting. the author says something profound: “discarding or setting aside something of one’s americanness or one’s social or church identity is almost sacrilege to many people. our way of life is often equated with godliness, and we defend vigorously its apparent rightness. as such, this way of life has become our prison.”

in luke chapter 4 we read about jesus standing up in the synagogue to read this passage from isaiah: “the Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. he has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering the sight of the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” he then goes on to say, “today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.” jesus is the fulfillment of God’s promise to free his people and remove their blindness – and this has brand new meaning for me today as i realize that i am a prisoner when i am blinded by my own cultural biases.

so this fourth of july, i am celebrating freedom to NOT live in america and NOT be 100% american. jesus has set me free from bondage to any set of values other than his. i am free to love others even when i can’t understand them. i am free to respond well to “hey! a white person!” and “can you eat rice?” and “i wish i was chubby like you.” i am free to embrace another way of thinking, cooking, eating, sleeping, and playing. i am free to unlearn and relearn everything i think i know. i am free to accept that my identity – who i am at my core – is not ‘american’ but ‘child of God.’

“if you abide in my word you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” – john 8:31-32

free to invite my neighbors over for bbq chicken and rice to celebrate the 4th of july

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. Heidi permalink
    7 July 2012 21:35

    What a beautiful and wise response to cultural stress. Recognizing one’s own ethnocentricity is humbling and not easy. So glad you are facing this early, yet it’s not something we learn once for all – we have to keep learning it over and over!

  2. Heidi permalink
    23 September 2012 20:10

    This is beautiful, Rachel. I have experienced this kind of things many times, and admire your willingness to examine your reactions and learn. Love you!

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