I can remember it like it was yesterday: the sweet aromas of Ghormeh sabzi swirling through the hall, and the freshly-made Tah Dig, golden and glistening, welcoming us as we arrived. My husband joined the men in the backyard as they slowly spun and roasted kabobs on a traditional spit, while I wandered to the kitchen and joined the women, where we talked for hours and drank tea, long before the meal was ever ready to eat.
That memory has always been a beautiful picture of my friendship with some dear Persian brothers and sisters in the Lord. Though we don’t get to see each other as often as we used to when we were neighbors many years ago, when I think of our friendship, my mental images always remember the same things: our homes, our food, and lots of time together.
The concepts of home, food, and time are not exclusive to Persians by any means. I myself am a woman of East Indian descent, my husband is Latino, and these three values are highly prioritized in our families too. In fact, this is true for most ethnic cultures. On our current street alone, our neighbors come from all over – Columbia and Venezuela, Burma, and Hong Kong to name a few places – and all of them share these values.
Certainly, we are all different in many ways – we speak different languages, have different traditions, come from different socio-economic backgrounds, and more. But it is these three things that bring us together and cause our friendships to grow. (Here I am simply talking about cultural markers, for undoubtedly the gospel is the primary means of uniting all peoples in Christ).
Is it sometimes hard going to other peoples’ homes? Absolutely.
It’s never a given whether our toddler son is going to behave nicely or have a complete meltdown. There are also the different smells to contend with, like incense, and the issue of cat hair. (I am extremely allergic to both, although I have come to believe that it was for situations like this that God invented Claritin!)
Do I sometimes have places to be and feel rushed while visiting a friend? Sure, but that doesn’t mean that I don’t try to clear my schedule and be open to other peoples’ rhythms and times. Eastern cultures have an open-door policy. You are welcome to their home at any hour of the day, and they may also drop by unannounced. It’s also not uncommon to spend four hours one evening at someone’s home and then come right back over the next night too.
Does this mean I always like the foods I’m eating? Most of the time, yes, but sometimes not. I have an Indian palette and certain flavors like fish sauce make my stomach a bit queasy. Now, barring health reasons (and mere preferences for gluten-free foods doesn’t count), I eat it anyways both for the sake of the gospel and my friendship.
You see, when it comes to inter-cultural friendships, I’m reminded of Paul’s declaration:
To the Jews I became as a Jew, in order to win Jews. To those under the law I became as one under the law…that I might win those under the law. To those outside the law I became as one outside the law…that I might win those outside the law. To the weak I became weak, that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all people, that by all means I might save some. (1 Corinthians 9:20–22)
Certainly, the Apostle Paul had a missional approach to his inter-cultural friendships – and that should be our first priority too. But, his statement also means that he got out of his comfort zone, laid down his preferences, and stayed in the moment, and in doing so he presented Christ to the people he was with.
If we, as Christian women today, can stretch, expand, and even transform our views of home, food and time, we will get closer to the heart of Paul’s message and, undoubtedly, grow deeper and more intimate in our friendships across cultures too.Leave a Comment
Michele Morin says
Great points, Michelle! It’s so easy for our preferences to become requirements — or even demands. May we find grace to lay them down for the sake of the gospel.
Bev @ Walking Well With God says
My work heading up Redeemer Christian Foundation, Inc. – http://redeemerchristianfoundation.org/ (through which we support Christian education for the orphaned and impoverished in the Middle East), has taken me into a whole other world. One, that I admit, I was once wary of because I didn’t take the time to know and attempt to understand. I think the western culture could learn a lot from the Middle Eastern concepts of family – respecting your parents and the elders (seniors) in your family and taking care of them. There is a respect and devotion that I really admire. The more I work with our staff there over the years, I realize we are more alike than different. We laugh about the idioms that get lost in translation. Our bond in loving the Lord breaks down barriers and builds bridges….if only we let it. Great reminders here today!!
Lisa-Jo baker says
I love this story so much Michelle. Thank you for inviting us to see and taste the world through other people’s preferences and not always just our own. Grateful to have you with us here today!
Pearl Allard says
“…but that doesn’t mean that I don’t try to clear my schedule and be open to other peoples’ rhythms and times.” Love how you worded this! I feel God growing me in this realm. While there have been a few growing pains, it’s also been very rewarding. Thank you, Michelle, for encouraging me to keep taking baby steps toward Him!
Theresa Boedeker says
Changing and adapting to the ways of our hosts is a beautiful picture of hospitality.
Rebecca L Jones says
People are just people aren’t they? We all may speak and eat differently, but we face the same challenges and need the same Lord.
Your fellowship with all these different cultures sounds beautiful.
I don’t like being in such a white bread environment that doesn’t allow for spontaneity.
It’s sad that as a first generation Mexican American living in upstate New York, I have very little connection with Hispanics.
Please pray for change in this area of my life.
Thanks, Gracias, Michelle
Beth Williams says
Our culture could certainly take a cue from others. They have respectful & caring attitudes. They don’t rush around just texting or emailing people. Not many, if any, nursing homes or assisted livings. They care for their elderly in the home. Most cultures love spending time with neighbors. They value friendships & family above all. I pray our country can become more like this.
I am challenged in this area for many reasons but I’m working on it. I like to drop by announced because thats my culture but since it’s not the dominant culture where I am I have become a bit insular. I’ll become more intentional about being hospitable.
Loved this. Reminds me that we need to restart our hospitality Fridays.