Stranger In A Strange Land

Guatemala 2013 010The night we arrived in Guatemala, our family walked to the center of Xenacoj to enjoy the closing night in the annual Santo Domingo Xenacoj Festival.  The festival features carnival rides, music, games, and a crowded market.  As we walked through the market on the way to Central Park, it was clear I was out-of-place.  Navigating the narrow walking paths through the market, I had to duck my head to get under the tarps that had been hung to protect the market goers from rain and sun.  I immediately began to hear giggles and see people laughing and pointing at me.  People were saying “Muy alto!” or “Mas alto!” or “Gringo!” as I waded through the crowds of people.

I was white.  They were brown.

I was 6’6″.   They were 5’3″.

I was strange.

This continued to happen the whole time we were in Guatemala.  It was almost like I was a celebrity alien from a distant and very different world.

Guatemala 2013 224It can be easy to be a stranger in a strange land.  I look different.  I sound different.  I probably even smell different.

At home in the United States, it’s a different story.

I look the same.  I sound the same.  I smell the same.

But I’m called to be different.  This is not my home.  In 1 Peter, we are reminded that we are called to live differently:

Dear friends, I urge you, as foreigners and exiles, to abstain from sinful desires, which wage war against your soul.  Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us.

Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every human authority: whether to the emperor, as the supreme authority, or to governors, who are sent by him to punish those who do wrong and to commend those who do right. For it is God’s will that by doing good you should silence the ignorant talk of foolish people. Live as free people, but do not use your freedom as a cover-up for evil; live as God’s slaves. Show proper respect to everyone, love the family of believers, fear God, honor the emperor.  I Peter 2:11-17

We all want to fit in.  As I have returned back to the United States, it’s easy to slip back into the patterns and attitudes of those around me.  It’s easy to go with the flow.  To a certain extent, this is important.  I need to do my work.  I need to relate to those around me.  As a follower of Christ, I’m also supposed to be different.  Paul reminds us in his letter to the Romans that we should live transformed lives.

Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.  Romans 12:2

There’s a song that we used to sing in church…”They will know we are Christians by our love.”  I want people to know there is something different about me.  I want to be a reflection of God’s love.  I want to point people to Christ through my words, attitudes, and actions.  When people meet Jon Stolpe, I want them to say to themselves “There’s something different about him.  I want to find out more.”

We spend so much time trying to fit in.  Maybe we should put more effort into being strange.

How do people know there is something different about you?

Have you ever been to a place where you were considered strange?