On Thursday morning, I went into our 11 year old son’s room to say good morning. I was out of town last week, and I had not seen him since Monday, so I was looking forward to a hug and a quick catch up on his week. In the moment, I was taken by the sweetness of his messy hair and his boxer-clad, man-child self. I was hoping for a meaningful answer to, “How has your week been? I missed you!” He was barely awake when he answered my question with, “Mom, I need a new crossbow.”
He needs a new crossbow – just like I need a haircut. His 11 year old reality is one of slaying Siths and monsters and bad guys with his wooden sword, his wooden shield, and his marshmallow blaster crossbow (a gift for selling the most magazines as a Cub Scout.)
I have been musing on his cute comment since then. Thinking about how our view of reality is what really shapes our perception of needs and desire and truth. His current reality is that he cannot slay the bad guys until he can procure a new crossbow. It’s very important – he needs a new one.
Living as a stranger is something that makes us question reality. After college, I moved to Japan with my first husband. We both taught English there. He knew quite a bit of Japanese, but I knew none. Before I moved, I had a vivid dream that I was already there. I was driving through the mountains and all of the landscape looked like the illustrations in a Dr. Seuss book. Vivid colors, shaggy creatures, and twists and turns that defy gravity. Life there sometimes felt like that Dr. Seuss book. I was college educated, but could not even decipher the phonetics of the strange alphabets (they have three) to try to begin to be literate. I felt like a three year old in preschool. I am a small person – only 5’2″, but in Japan, I was the tallest woman on the morning train into the city almost every day. I felt gargantuan. I am a good cook, but it was impossible to buy the ingredients to make anything recognizable because they were all so foreign to me. (One day, after an intense search for Worcestershire Sauce, I proudly dumped Oyster Sauce into my dish and ruined the whole thing.) My repertoire was reduced to eggs, apples, and white bread. I was a stranger. It was confusing.
Living in Japan felt like I’d been transferred to a place where none of the rules or assumptions held. I KNEW I was a short, well-educated, good cook. But, none of those rules seemed to hold in my new environment. Which version of reality was true?
Don’t take advantage of a stranger. You know what it’s like to be a stranger; you were strangers in Egypt.” Exodus 23:9 (The Message)
“[Jesus said] I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.” Matthew 25:43 (NIV)
God came as a stranger. The Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we did not recognize Him. There must be something important about having the mindset of a stranger, if God Himself came to our earth as one, and if He placed His covenant people in a strange place for 400 years – long enough for the memory of “stranger-ness” to stick.
When we begin to see ourselves as strangers on earth, we begin to tune in to the “alternate reality” that is the Kingdom of God. When we see ourselves as strangers on earth, we begin to wrestle with the question of, “what’s really true?” When we are strangers, we remember the battle is not against flesh and blood. When we are strangers, we remember that it is best to lay up treasure in heaven. When we are strangers, we begin to grasp that grace and truth are two ends of the same continuum. When we are strangers, the last is first. When we are strangers, we lay down life to discover it.
Thank you, God, for Clarkston – where I can be reminded that I am also a stranger.