When You don’t move the mountains I’m needing You to move;
When You don’t part the waters I wish I could walk through;
When You don’t give the answers as I cry out to You –
I will trust, I will trust, I will trust in You!”
Oh my. This song has reverberated through my mind several times a day, every day, for several weeks now. I relate too-readily with the sentiment in the chorus. My heart is too ready to wallow in the feeling of God’s abandonment when anything is too tough or too long or too unpleasant or too uncomfortable.
Do I trust in Him when He doesn’t move the mountain in front of me? When He holds out His hand, offering instead to walk with me over the mountain, guiding me, helping me, do I eagerly take it or do I cross my arms and walk off in a huff, agitated and resentful?
Do I trust Him when He doesn’t part the waters I wish I could walk through? When His wisdom dictates a more difficult or seemingly perilous route, do I drop to my knees – not in worship, but in a tantrum of two-year-old proportions?
Do I trust Him when He doesn’t give me the answers as I cry out to Him? When He lovingly answers instead, “wait,” do I accept that as an answer or rebel against His not performing on cue?
Because that’s what is at the heart of this ongoing issue of trust I continually struggle with – believing He knows best when it conflicts with what I think I know is best. Trusting His plan when it doesn’t match mine. Surrendering to His will instead of arrogantly clinging to my own.
“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.” Isaiah 55:8-9
PONDER: What mountains or waters or questions are you facing right now about which God is asking you to walk with Him in trust?
Before we moved overseas, we lived in the Southern US, which on the surface is a very friendly culture. We greet strangers and acquaintances with a “Hi, how are you?” You greet friends with a warm hug and a big smile and it’s great! But even at church we don’t just go around hugging everyone, right? We hug those that we love. Then we moved to Russia.There, it was different. People were not overly friendly, never greeted a stranger in the street, and I was usually grateful to be ignored.But in the conservative church, we kissed.On the lips. Men kissed men and women kissed women. Good times. Although at the time it was my least favorite part of church, looking back, I recognize that it was a very important part of fellowship. They took it seriously as a commandment and cheerfully (or not), kissed one another. A dry peck, and a quick hug if you were friends or a loving embrace if you were dear friends. They always made sure to greet every single person.In our youth group, there wasn’t as much kissing, but the girls hugged each other, and the guys shook each other’s hands, every single one. In a harsh culture, there was a comforting familiarity in that way of greeting each one. No one was left out of the greeting.
Now we live in a different country, in an even more traditional culture and, guess what. They kiss here, too. But it’s different.Here it’s the whole culture–not just the church–that is prone to kissing. Again, women-to-women, and it’s a kiss-kiss on the cheeks (left to right). It’s sweet, and all the while they are telling you how good it is to see you again and asking how you are, and how your family is and how your parents are. Even guys sometimes do a cheek-to-cheek thing that is not kissing, or a forehead bump, while clasping each other’s right hands. Every person in the room is greeted with a kiss or a handshake.
When we have people over, there is a ceremony of greeting and kissing that is not to be blown off casually. For instance, when guests come to our house for coffee, our whole family comes to the door, and we say, “It’s good that you came.”And their reply is, “It is good that we found you (at home).” If it is a man, I will shake his hand while we say this, and if it is a woman, we will be busy kissing each other’s cheeks, asking about the kids, if I’ve talked to my mom recently, if I’m tired (I’m supposed to be, because that means that I worked hard today, but I’m supposed to deny it). If we are really close, or it’s been a long time since we’ve seen each other, we will kiss each other’s cheeks more than twice and give each other a tight squeeze.(Hahaha!Some of you are cringing.It’s okay.Albanian women are awesome at making you feel greeted well.) While the women are kissing, the men are shaking hands and asking each other the same questions about their families (literally, “households”), work and whatever it is that men ask each other. After the greeting, the guests are either offered slippers, because Albanians do not wear their shoes in the house, or they are told to leave their shoes on because guests are special (or the floor is really cold and there are no guest slippers). Then they are led into the living room to sit, and the wife or daughter of the house brings a bowl of candy and serves each guest a sweet. This was traditionally llokume (Turkish Delight), but nowadays it is very often a chocolate. Then, coffee or juice is served to the guests. There are special customs regarding foods served and each region has their own, but the importance of it is the honor that they show their guests.
Because it’s such a traditional culture and everyone follows the same rules of greeting, they are used to it, but for those of us who have come from other places, it’s another opportunity to rethink the way we do things, especially those of us from the sometimes-too-casual West. Maybe in our Western churches holy kissing would be hard to reinstate as a scriptural mandate, but it would certainly make it easier for me, because when we go back to the US, it takes me two months to remember that no one there does the kiss-kiss thing. So embarrassing! Barring such a change, here are some things to think about. Do I honor the people who come to my home, to my church, to my social groups? Do I make them feel welcome, loved and accepted? How can I show love and honor to the people that I meet when I am out, especially those who are my brothers and sisters in Christ? Is there a way that I can reach out to those who might be on the lonely fringes, who need to a “holy kiss/handshake/hug”?
I am a highly impressionable person. I believe we all are in varying degrees. What we read, what we watch, the company we keep – all of these have a hand in shaping our perceptions and perspective. We vicariously learn through the experiences of the characters we come to know on the screen or in the pages of a book, whether for good or evil. One such character that has shaped my perspective on relating to others is Lorelei Gilmore from Gilmore Girls.
Gilmore Girls was a fast-paced, cleverly written show littered with pop culture references and witty banter. I was drawn to the main character (Lorelei) from the first episode in 2000. Lorelei, having become pregnant at sixteen, was now the mother of a sixteen-year-old daughter herself. What drew me to her character was that she accepted people at face value, for who they were at present, not who she wanted them to be. This was starkly contrasted against her own mother’s character whose snarky comments usually left little room for doubt that Lorelei was a constant source of disappointment to her. Lorelei usually managed to find humor even in the most humorless of people or circumstances. She was keenly aware that she didn’t have it all together. That perspective freed her from easily taking offense when those around her didn’t have it all together, either, allowing her to accept people as-is.
Romans 15:7 – Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you, in order to bring praise to God.
PONDER: If you have trouble accepting people as-is, ask yourself this: How did Christ accept you? (Hint: Read Romans 5:8.)