I used to be able to say I’ve lived abroad for most of my adult life. As I grow older in America, I’m losing the truth of that. Because it was once true, I still tend to think of myself as an expatriate (expat) down deep in my heart. While the depths of my heart may no longer hold that truth, it is still an integral part of my identity.
I spend a good part of my time training people how to live cross-culturally. Part of what I tell them is from my own experience. Part of what they hear is from colleague’s experiences. Another part of the information they receive comes from expats I have yet to meet but either follow on twitter, find them via a blog recommendation, or read in research somewhere (generally the internet). While I’m no longer an official part of the expat community, in many ways I feel more connected to it than ever before.
Yesterday I followed a link to this article. It’s worth reading, but in short it says people leave their cultural roots to go abroad for many reasons. The author says the voluntary expat (not one who moves because a government or business requires it), moves for love. Love for another person, of course, but also love for wine, a more compatible lifestyle, and an entrepreneurial opportunity.
It made me think about myself and the people I work with most closely. Why do we go? Why do we uproot ourselves from the comfortably familiar to move to the unknown? Why do we give up geographical proximity to friends and family to create new relationships in urban centers and remote corners of the world?
It’s the same answer: Love. Love compels us to go. Not romantic love. Not infatuation with a pace of life. Not anything but love.
I think I John 4: 19-21 sums it up pretty well. We can and do love others because we know the love of God. He loved us so much he gave his only son, the Christ, for us. How can we not go? How can we not tell others? How can we not demonstrate this love to people who have never heard of it?
Love redeemed us. Incarnational ministry is a logical step in living out that love before others. They can’t experience the love of redemption if they don’t believe it. They can’t believe unless they hear about it and see it in action. They can’t experience it unless someone is sent to them to live out the truth of love. (My paraphrase of Romans 10:14-15.)
I know not everyone can go to the far corners of the earth. Some are meant to live love in their own country. Some are meant to partner with those who are compelled to go by praying for them, by providing the logistical and financial support they need. Others are meant to hold them up through words and acts of encouragement. It takes many villages to show the love of One to a world of many.
For the people I work with and the people who partner with me to make that work a reality, Henry Martyn’s words come alive every day. He said, “The spirit of Christ is the spirit of missions. The nearer we get to Him, the more intensely missionary we become.” Drawing near to Love urges us to leave what’s near and dear so we can “be Jesus with skin on” to those who would have difficulty encountering him otherwise.
That’s where Love leads me. Where does it lead you?
photo courtesy of Bunny Lenburg
Today I’ve joined the Faith Barista’s Faith Jam. Every week Bonnie’s asking other bloggers to “jam like musicians” on a faith and life related topic. This is my riff on “Love.” I’d love to read your thoughts on the topic. Please leave a comment or a link to your blog if you’ve jammed on this. And if you haven’t blogged on it, please leave some of your thoughts in the comment section below. If you’re interested in seeing what others had to say, please follow the link over to the Faith Barista site.