Monday, October 10, 2016

What I've lost and What I've Gained

I’ve been living in Europe for about a decade now.  It’s interesting every time I go back to the U.S.  One would think that in this digital age people would stay up to date on the goings on around the world, but I never cease to be surprised by the things I miss out on by living thousands of miles from the place I grew up.

The first time I went back to the U.S. I had a conversation with my brother.  He told me how he would soon be getting his first iPhone.  He was quite excited.  I smiled and nodded at his excitement, but inside I was thinking, “What’s an iPhone?  I think I remember hearing about that once.”  They have iPhones in Europe now of course, but at the time, they were seldom seen in Eastern Europe.  I wasn’t sure what they were, but apparently they were important.

Another time, I heard a lot of buzz about these people called the Kardashians.  I had no idea who they were or why they were so important.  (I’m still not sure to be honest.)  They were not actors, or musicians.  They did not produce anything important, and when I finally saw a picture of them I realized that they really weren't even that good looking, but they seemed to be a big deal in the U.S.  I had no idea why.

Politics are a hit and miss thing.  I am up to date on the presidential election (more so than I would like to be), but I couldn’t tell you what the most recent thing is that Trump blamed Clinton for or vice versa.  I could probably name the Senators from my home state, but I’m not sure who my representative is.  Yet, I am surprisingly well informed on the scandal in the Stillwater, Minnesota school district thanks to a couple of Facebook friends.  (You know who you are.)

I am also disconnected from the Christian subculture.  Just today I realized that I have no idea who the big names are in Christian music.  I wanted to buy a praise album to listen to on my road trip tomorrow, and I had no idea what to get.  (My non-Christian readers will understand where I’m coming from.)

The last time I was in the States I was paying for gas at a station.  The cashier saw my phone and said, “A flip phone.  Old school.  Nice.”  This was about two years ago, and I still hadn’t gotten a smart phone because they are expensive, and I’m not someone with a lot of spare cash.  Apparently I had even fallen behind gas station attendants in my technological advancement.

Though I have fallen into much social and technological ineptness in my time abroad, I have also gained much.

For one thing, I’m not afraid of people from other cultures.  (I never really was, but I'm more comfortable around them now.)  I know that many of my brothers and sisters in America are concerned about refugees from the Middle-East.  I’m concerned for them, not about them.  I see them as people in need, not a threat to my way of life.  This is largely because I've already surrendered my way of life to God's will.

I’ve also found that there is a lot to learn from different cultures.  For example, I grew up in a loving family, but I never realized how close knit and supportive a family could be until I came to Eastern Europe.

By far, the best part of my time in Europe has been the friendships I have forged.

Actually, friendship is a mild term.  Family-ship is probably a better word.  There are people here that I am closer to than many of the people I grew up with.  I can’t explain why this happens psychologically, though I have my theories.  The best answer I can offer comes from Jesus:

“Truly I tell you, no one who has left home or wife or brothers or sisters or parents or children for the sake of the kingdom of God will fail to receive many times as much in this age and in the age to come eternal life.” (Luke 18:29-30)

I’ve gained a lot living here.  Perhaps many who read this will not understand what I mean by this.  I left my comfort zone.  I have much less money than I would have had if I had stayed and worked just about any other job.  I also have fewer rights here than I do in America.  I even have less security.  How can I think I have gained from such a venture?

I don’t know that I can explain it to you.  If you want to find out just how much you can gain by packing up and leaving your home, then I suggest you try it.  If you are doing it for the sake of the kingdom of God, you will be surprised just how much you gain.

Come and see.

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