Having lived in Spain for thirty years, sometimes I see uniqueness through my visitors’ eyes more clearly than my own. The differences in our field seem normal to us, now. Here are some examples:
When we first got here, I was shocked that people tucked a long loaf of bread—think French—under an arm. There was no wrapper, and lots of people avoided deodorant. Now, I buy bread and tuck it under my arm sometimes. (You’ll be glad to know I believe in using deodorant!)
Servers place chunks of bread on the tablecloth. Everyone uses both fork and knife the whole meal long. Both hands are at the table. Spanish people don’t switch hands after cutting meat. They just use the fork in the left hand to pop the food in their mouths. Now, when we go back to the States, people say to me, “We notice you eat European-style.” Yes, I simply cannot eat without a knife in one hand. It’s great; you don’t have to chase little pieces of food around the plate. You always have a solid pusher. Why didn’t Americans come up with this?
Another foodie thing—or maybe I should call it “drinkie.” Here in Spain, although many people drink wine with meals, a lot drink water. It’s plain ole water, usually served room temperature. No ice, ever, in water. So, we have guests, and we pour water for everyone. It’s normal for us; not so for our guests. We hosted a group, and the ladies made iced tea and Crystal Light. I only have two ice trays . . . .
Stateside with our two teenagers in the car, I was zipping around, driving my dad’s old Toyota Corolla in a 25 mph speed-limit residential area. One of my children was watching the speedometer and constantly saying, “Mama, you’re speeding . . . Mama, you’re speeding.” Well, technically, I guess I was. (Don’t report me, please. I was doing 30 mph, which to me was a snail’s pace.) In Spain, we enjoy faster, more aggressive driving and higher speed limits. I’ve since learned to watch it in both worlds, but I confess I like driving standard transmission and buzzing around.
I worked at a Christian magazine when I was (much) younger, and I would often catch misspellings the editors missed. After learning a second language, I am addicted to spell check, thankful for a dictionary, and I frequently look up whether a word is one or two and whether or not it’s hyphenated. All of that very good English and excellent spelling went down the tubes somewhere!
I used to feel like a foreigner. Now, when I see someone who’s obviously not from the Basque Country, I think, “I wonder where he’s/she’s from.” Then, I realize I’m a foreigner too, and others are probably thinking the same about me.
You see, it’s home.
We’ve lived longer here than we lived in our “home” country. We brought up our children here. We understand the lifestyle and have adapted. Truthfully, we are more at home here than at “home.” Our birth country will forever be the foundation of our lives, and we’re loyal citizens, but we’re at home here. Does that make sense?
“Where are you from?” gets a confused answer. “Ummm . . . do you mean in the States, originally, or where do we live?”
“Can you tell me why you don’t want to sign up for the store credit card and get a 40% discount on your purchase today?”
“Well, we live overseas, and we’d probably never use it again.”
“Oh yes? Where?”
“Oh.” Pause. End of conversation.
Yes, we’ve been here way too long. It’s become home.
But . . .
“This world is not my home; I’m just a passing through.”* (In Spanish, the second line is translated “I’m a pilgrim here.”)
Our perfect home is somewhere else. Home is heaven! We have a whole different perspective.
We’re only pilgrims.
The heroes of faith in Hebrews 11 understood this: These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off, and were persuaded of them, and embraced them, and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth (Hebrews 11:13). Peter knew it, too. (1 Peter 2:11)
We haven’t yet seen our permanent home, but we will. Until then, God has given us the greatest message in the world to spread all over this world.
- And he said unto them, Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature (Mark 16:15).
- For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved (John 3:17).
Our task is before us. Our mission is clear.
When we feel like strangers at home or abroad, we remember we’re just pilgrims passing through. Our life is, after all, just a vapor. (James 4:14)
When we’re mind-boggled about what we need to be doing and are trying to decide priorities, our mission is always the same. Go . . . and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen (Matthew 28:19-20).
When I need a priority check, I go back to my simple mission statement, Matthew 28:19-20, along with 1 Corinthians 10:31, which says we’re to do everything to glorify God:
- Does this activity actually glorify God?
- Does this activity teach others about Christ and His salvation?
- Does this activity lead people to obey God?
- Does this activity teach holy precepts?
- Am I evidencing through my life the Holy Spirit in me?
Am I a living testimony?
“This world is not (our) home. (We’re) just a passing through.”*
* “This World Is Not My Home” by Mary Reeves and Albert E. Brumley