26 years ago, over dinner with friends at a beach restaurant, a single question forever altered my way of looking at others. It was a gathering of friends. We were a long way from home. The tropical breezes, quiet beaches, and natural pace of living invited one to slow down and relax. It was a moment filled with possibilities and wonder.
The waiter brought us water and menus. As we looked over the items, my imagination walked through the implied promise in each dish. I drifted into a personal space, oblivious of anything around me.
“Would you mind if we order a meat dish?”
What? Was this in my mind or in reality? What had I missed in the conversation, where did what I think I heard fit? Nothing quite made sense.
“Excuse me. My mind has wondered off as I read the menu. It looks fantastic. What was the question?”
“I know you are vegetarian, or at least have a preference that way. Would it offend you in anyway if I ordered a meat dish for myself? I will not be offended if you would prefer that I didn’t.”
The short conversation forever altered the way I looked at what is different. His words were an echo of an old conversation. It was a positive expression of the warning from our forefathers. “Don’t tell people how they should or shouldn’t pray when they’re praying in tongues that you don’t understand. Be courteous and considerate in everything.” (1 Corinthians 14.40)
In Singapore, worship is expressed through walking on beds of white-hot coals, fasting, celebration, silence, and study. In this diversity, God is listening and speaking. On a personal level, respecting and honoring different points of view and behaviors is part of the cultural tradition. On a personal level, I find that the question is never about what others are doing but what I am doing with the opportunities Life gives me to learn.
I do not always understand the “why”. Today’s opportunity is to honor the choices of others by creating space for it to live.