Tuesday, September 11, 2018

Changing the Narrative

Happy Ethiopian New Year! It is now 2011! We start invites today at lunch time, honored to be invited out, not so excited about all the meat. :)

When we first moved to Awi Land, I was educated by a person who had lived here. As she informed me that Awi mothers do not name their babies for several years because they do not love them and they are afraid of the babies dying and did not want to get attached, I accepted it as a sad, backwards reality. As time passed, I had the opportunity to know Awi mothers. Watching them with their infants and toddlers this narrative no longer fit because I saw mothers, who like women across the planet, deeply loved their children.  We asked questions and learned the interesting fact that the babies are not named, because of love. Because of the belief that naming a child draws attention to the precious baby in the spiritual realm and brings unwanted opening to spiritual darkness. The more beautiful the baby is, the more the baby is hidden out of fear someone else will curse the child .  

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Some of the ways I interacted with or thought of my community make me cringe. It’s been years of having my cultural biases and assumptions challenged and stripped away. I am sure in five more years, I will look at my now-self and feel the same way. It’s one of the best and hardest parts of walking with Christ, the painful, beautiful process of sanctification. 

Much of my sanctification has come through challenge to ideas I cling to as absolute.  God uses many avenues for stripping us bare. He has repeatedly pushed me into uncomfortable spaces where I hear voices different than those I choose to surround myself with and I am learning the precious, fragile beauty of learning the “other” story, hearing the “other” voice. Recently, Ethiopia has initiated a peace with Eritrea. For the Ethiopian person who has had relationship and life-on-life time with an Eritrean, their reaction towards the peace treaty is one of joy. This is in contrast to an Ethiopian person who hasn’t had any relationship with an Eritrean and has heard negative stereotypes (stereotypes are rooted in truth but are never the complete story). Their reaction will most likely be fear and anger as Eritreans can be portrayed as heartless, warmongers. When the “other” story is absent, there’s no voice to challenge these assumptions and stereotypes. And in this space is fertile ground for Satan to grow fear, prejudice and cold-heartedness. 

Reading books that challenge my inclinations and give different narratives aren’t always easy. I have a list of some of the most influential and paradigm shifting for me but the most challenging book I read, is God’s Word, the Holy Bible.

Forgive. Love. Submit. Live Justly.  Choose joy. Dead in sin when Jesus loved me and died for me anyway. Turn the other cheek. And this is not even a start.

It’s a full-length mirror for me to gaze into and see my weakness but God’s strength. Jesus challenged the narratives of the religious people with His counter-culture self, scandalizing all who knew the law. The parable of the Good Samaritan is one example of Jesus offering a different narrative. To the Jews of the day, the Samaritans were a despised group, and the Jews would go days journey out of the way to make sure they didn’t have to cross Samaritan land or interact with a Samaritan. Then with a scandalizing character casting, Jesus passes over the priest and the Pharisee as his hero, but the human-scum, the hated, a Samaritan. And the Samaritan does what the religious people were expected to do. He loved the man in front of him, not as a hated enemy, but as a person of inherent worth. 

I would love to hear stories of things that have shifted your paradigm? What has God used for you? Relationships? Books? What else?  


Anonymous said...

Again thanks for your great thoughts. I love the story of the "Good Samaritan".


Shari Fiechter said...

Asmarich’s Baby boy is so chubby and adorable! What a miracle. Thank you for these convicting thoughts. I just ordered a book someone recommended called “Conscience” that I believe has a similar message. Have you read it?

sarah.flyingkites said...

Ahhh! LOVE this post!!

Your example of the mothers/babies is perfect for illustrating your point. Love.

I too have been on a journey of exposing some of my cultural junk from living in America. It is so hard to put a heart-journey like that into words, but you did an excellent job.

Jesus and His mysterious, counter-cultural way of living is one of my favorite things about His example when he lived here on earth.

I'm just finishing the book Just Mercy and plan to give away a copy on my blog (stay tuned) if I can ever put into words what I want to say about it :).

Great post!

Teresa said...

I skimmed over this last night and was too tired to think too deeply. Ever have those moments?

So now that I've had a good nights rest, I can think about it and reply. Great post!

I'm with you on the truths of the Bible. We've been doing a study on the book of James. It's so good to be reminded of how to live a true Christ like life. I've been humbled and definitely know that I have so far to go to be the person I'm striving to be with God's help. So thankful for His grace and His mercy.

T and T