It is hard to know exactly what to do in a foreign culture. The protocols, manners, and traditions are rarely natural, familiar or even known. You can identify some things you know for sure that are different, saying thank-you for every opportunity to serve in Japan is a great example, but a lot of the time you just sense something has varied. I often find myself wanting to avoid embarrassing my host or myself so I try to stick closely to things in my comfort zone. I strictly avoid gatherings where I am out of my element. I prefer to circumvent conversations that lead me to a place where I am not prepared to engage.
My comfort zone appears tiny. The energy that total strangers find in introducing themselves on the place and then chatting for hours as if they are long lost family members is, to me, baffling. The ability to walk in with ease to a room full of people that one doesn’t know and then mix, mingle, and build new friendships is again something that is never natural. And to those able to reach out to the sick in any situation; my admiration knows no bounds.
The harsh reality is that I avoid hospitals, I reluctantly visit elderly care, and I avoid those who are living on the edges of survival. I don’t think I am better; rather I am at a loss as to what I can, should, or will do.
I know if I heard that “near the Sheep Gate in Jerusalem there was a pool, in Hebrew called Bethesda, with five alcoves. Hundreds of sick people—blind, crippled, paralyzed—were in these alcoves.” (John 5.2, 3) I would avoid this place like a contagious disease, but that is not what Jesus did. Candidly I spend much of my life avoiding those in real need, but that is not what God does.
Today is a fresh opportunity to break free of my fears and journey with God. God offers each a new comfort zone bull of compassion, mercy, and family.