Every culture has a standard greeting.
That greeting reveals something about the culture.
In Cambodia “sous-dey” or “hello” is followed by the phrase, “sok sabai teh?” We translate that to mean, “How are you?” in English. The literal translation however is, “Have you eaten rice?” There was a regularly expressed concern for the needs of one another in our daily greetings.
At home in the US literally two years after my short stay in Cambodia, I still consider that greeting. Lately I feel even more acutely aware of the stark contrast between that greeting and the response that most often comes to the American “How are you?”
What are the most common responses you hear?
– Just keeping up…
– Ready for a break…
It frustrates me to know how frequently these are my very own responses. It frustrates me mostly because I can rarely truly account for what all that “busy-ness” has added up to.
Do you know the feelings?
All alone in a room full of people…
Full schedule, yet unfulfilled heart…
Almost exactly a year ago I began the process of selling and giving away my excess belongings and packing into boxes only what I could pack into a small Uhaul trailer behind my sedan. My heart was left convicted and committed to quitting.
Committed to quitting….
Seems bizarre, yes? An oxymoron of sorts.
However, I had come to very clearly realize that my constant stream of “commitments” was actually leaving me uncommitted, overstretched, exhausted, and distracted. Two weeks in the Western wilderness and laying to rest a cousin that was only a year older than myself but had lived a beautiful life brought back to clear view what I cared most about. What I wanted to live my life worn out for. And the reality that this life is not everlasting…. What was I waiting for?
Community. Redemption. Among the outcast. Together. HIS fame.
The first thing I had to quit was the “shoulds.”
….should keep my job because they’re hard to find right now and mine was good.
….should wait until I have all the details in order before moving somewhere far away.
….should have a team/spouse/friends to move to someplace foreign with.
….should…. should…. should…. everyone had another should to offer me.
And all the while waiting on the shoulds I was making decisions that would connect me to people, places, experiences. Decisions that would use up my energy, time, and emotion. Was all that spending investing and sowing into a field of fruitfulness or just buying up momentary McDonald’s processed pleasures that would leave me hungry in an hour… that would not go beyond myself?
I would love to tell you the story ends there…. that I arrived in Denver and it was really the promised land and all my woes have gone and my dreams come true. Nope. I had only just begun – Simply bought my gym membership, but not lifted a single weight.
As I began to make commitments in this new place I had the same struggles:
…the ache for others who shared a lifestyle in pursuit of a kingdom vision on earth
…the basic need to make ends meet
…abundant opportunities to explore new adventures of every sort
I had numerous conversations and connections with people who ached for the same thing – they wanted deeper, more committed community. Eventually I managed to fill my schedule up to the maximum and stretch myself across the entire city. It was at that point that I broke. I sat in a coffee shop with a friend, tears rolling down my face, as I told her I didn’t know what I was doing, but I was so tired. She patiently listened and we had no answers that night, but over the next month I did a whole lot of quitting.
I prayed about the place, geographically, that I would commit to – Five Points neighborhood.
I prayed about the people I would commit to – my neighborhood and my church.
I prayed about what was keeping me from those commitments.
And I quit.
I quit asking “what’s next?” and looked at today.
I quit asking “who is coming?” and saw who was already there.
I quit waiting for the perfect and chose thankfulness for the imperfect made into perfect graces.
I quit figuring out how everything should be and asked how I could be a steward of what already was.
And I committed.
To simplicity – of possessions and commitments.
To my neighbors.
To my job.
To the friends I had already made.
And I committed to what all of it was right now, not what I was waiting for it to become.
The blessings that have come from this are not what I could have ever created and they go far beyond myself.
The Lord’s love is becoming well known…
unlikely strangers are becoming friends…
Grace is being celebrated…
HIS love is seeping into wounds…
So when I find myself responding to “how are you?” with a “busy” or “tired”, I do a self-check. Am I investing or am I self-soothing/wasting?
For some of us the quitting may seem like dramatic changes, like my initial move. For others, it may simply be a step back and fresh look at where you are right now.
May the legacy of Christ flow from your daily living and the journey be full of grace as we go together.
“For we know, brothers loved by God, that he has chosen you, because our gospel came to you not only in word, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction. You know what kind of men we proved to be among you for your sake. And you became imitators of us and of the Lord, for you received the word in much affliction, with the joy of the Holy Spirit, so that you became an example to all the believers in Macedonia and in Achaia. For not only has the word of the Lord sounded forth from you in Macedonia and Achaia, but your faith in God has gone forth everywhere, so that we need not say anything.For they themselves report concerning us the kind of reception we had among you, and how you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God, and to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead, Jesus who delivers us from the wrath to come.”