dichotomy and shrapnel

as per usual i have more questions than answers…musings below on dichotomy and shrapnel… i am sure there are more to come…

in the past year and a half of my time in east-africa i have quite frequently been the “only” of something in a gathering of people. the only white person/american/expat, the only woman, the only only child, the only one who does not understand the joke…or understand the language.

most of the time i am pretty comfortable being the “only”…comfortable in providing a bit of a disturbance in my difference. but sometimes its really uncomfortable, or lonely. often i can be completely at east and comfortable and lonely/uncomfortable at the same time. i live in dichotomy, what can i say?

being at this training is one of those times where i am living into comfort and discomfort at the same time.

we are just a little over half way through the month long in-residence training on peace-building and reconciliation,  (and i have to confess it is still not clear if it is peacebuilding, peace-buidling or peace building…) and the longer we are together as a group the more i feel this dichotomy. i am more and more comfortable with my participants–in our forming friendships and relationships and at the same time feel pulled in the opposite direction. not in the direction of dis-like, but in the realization of our differences… in feeling my western-ness, i guess.

i am comfortable with disagreement. its healthy and a part of life–we are never going to totally agree on everything, and a lot of the time our differences can be beautiful. many of the cultural differences between myself and my colleagues from around africa are beautiful. traditional dances and music from all parts of africa represented are stunning examples of the creativity of all people–and necessary expressions of culture and individualism and history.

but the part of this dichotomy that makes me uncomfortable in a bad way (because i think discomfort can be really healthy, and good. another post for another time, perhaps) is refusal to listen. if i believed that sins were ranked (as in one sin being any worse than another) i would say that close-mindedness would be one of the worst sins. i listen and observe my colleagues, my brothers and sisters in christ–those who i am working with to create peace–talking about “them” and “those people” (9 times out of 10 referring to islam and muslims) as if “they” were not human beings. as if “they” were not created in the image of god. and living in this gap-in this dichotomy rips at my heart.

to make matters more difficult–in some ways i see myself as a total outsider. i am white. i am from america. i am an intelligent, over-educated white woman who has not grown up in this kind of hardship. therefore a lot of the time i do not feel that i should be voicing  my thoughts or giving suggestions especially unsolicited. what right do i have to speak? i wait to be asked. i have moved to the back of the classroom instead of the front so that when i cry fewer people can see.

the life of a follower of christ is one of discomfort. one of dichotomy. being in but not of the world. living for the ‘already and the not yet’–knowing that the promise of the fulfillment of the kingdom of god is given to us through the covenant, but also knowing that the world painfully and seriously broken. in a recent post from a blog i recently started reading the blogger talked about shrapnel. the shrapnel of honesty. she was remembering a friend of hers talking about this shrapnel saying, “that after a visceral truth telling, everyone involved is walking around with the shrapnel, and it can rear itself as a source of pain, or a numb reminder of the event, at any time.”

when we know the truth–when we are faced with the dichotomy of living as a follower of christ (heck, or even of just caring for humanity and justice just out of our basic connection with humanity–if one calls themselves a christian, a buddhist, a muslim, hindu, a follower of the spaghetti monster, religious, spiritual, agnostic or atheist, it matters not) and when we are faced with and accept the TRUTH of any situation this shrapnel pierces us. it becomes a part of us–and reminds us of the truth we have learned.

i know that i am different than those around me. but i know that we are the same. that is a shrapnel of truth.
i also know that my faith teaches me and compels me in profound ways that i cannot explain, to love deeply. to love all deeply. regardless of what they have or have not done. what they have or have not said. who they are or who they refuse to be. i will love them. and that is a shrapnel of truth.
there is injustice in every corner of the world. people are treated unfairly. people are maimed, tortured and killed. people are oppressed. and knowing this and accepting it as TRUTH…that is a shrapnel of truth.

the question becomes: if i know that i am a walking dichotomy. and if i know that i am pierced by the shrapnel of honesty, the shrapnel of truth–if i am feeling and sharing that pain… now what?

n.b. i encourage you to read all of the “shrapnel” post here.

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