Living between worlds

We all live between worlds. Between the world of home and work, or school and home. The worlds of family and friends. We experience life differently in each of these worlds. And where we actually are is somewhere in between. As an expat, I live between the world I grew up in and the unfamiliar world I now call home. Every experience is an in-between experience, an effort to connect those two worlds and to make sense of it all.

We also live between our inner world and the world outside. Between our thoughts and our actions, our desires and inhibitions. Life happens in the in-between, as we live between doubt and courage, between faith and disbelief, hope and despair.

Writing is a way of taking the inner world into the world outside. It is through writing that I want to explore this in-between life and share it with you. This is a vulnerable thing. It is something I can do only from a place between fear and boldness. I hope you’ll join me.

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Travelling between worlds

The story of Ruth is a great story for expats. Especially for expats returning “home” after a long time of living abroad. I read through the book of Ruth this morning and found more hope and blessing in it than I initially expected. The book is called Ruth, but could just as well, or even better, be called Naomi. As it is Naomi who looses everything, including hope, and finds blessing in the end. The blessing comes, surprisingly, through Ruth, a foreigner. But it is Naomi who receives the blessing and is restored.

Actually, the story is at first not even about Naomi, but about her husband. For this is how the story starts: “a man from Bethlehem in Juda … went to live for a while in the country of Moab”. He went there with his wife Naomi and their two sons. They left Bethlehem because of a famine in the area and decided to wait it out in a foreign land, where food was still available. They intended to come back though, as they only went to live there for a while. But then the story takes a turn. The man dies and leaves his wife and two sons behind. Now it is all about Naomi. She is on her own. She allows her sons to marry two local women, one of them is Ruth. However, about ten years later, both of her sons die as well and Naomi is left with no-one but her two daughters-in-law. By that time, the famine in Juda is over and Naomi decides to travel back to her own country, after more than ten years. She urges her two daughters-in-law to go back to their families, to stay where they belong. One of them does, but Ruth stays with Naomi and travels with her to an unknown place. She intends to stay, even if this means to die and be buried in the land of her in-laws. She is not an expat, but a migrant. She goes to stay.

When the two women arrive in Bethlehem, the reaction of the women of the town says it all: “Can this be Naomi?”. She has changed, she is not the same woman who left her land and her people over ten years ago. In her words:

“I went away full, but the Lord has brought me back empty”.

Continue reading “Travelling between worlds”

Between faith and action

This morning I woke up with the story of the Good Samaritan on my mind. More than anything, this probably means I am well on my way to becoming a theologian, or an “expert in the law”, as the theologians in the days of Jesus were called. The law being the laws of Moses, or what we now call the Old Testament.

One day, an expert in the law asks Jesus a question: how do I live my life in a way it will be meaningful into eternity? Since he knows the answer, Jesus has him reply his own question. He answers rightly: “Love the Lord your God and love your neighbor as yourself”. Love of a neighbour often takes the shape of help. You help someone you love and is in need. It is an act of love to help. But hey, you can’t help everyone, can you? That is probably why the expert of the law would like to reduce his responsibilities and limit the number of neighbours he might have. He thus asks “who is my neighbour?” And then Jesus tells him a rather embarrassing story. Continue reading “Between faith and action”

Hope and fear

Last Sunday was the first Sunday of Advent – the time we look forward with hope to what we have in Christ. We remember again how he came into this world as a seemingly insignificant little child, there in Bethlehem. How does that give us hope? Hope indicates an expectation of change, a clear trust that something good is surely about to happen. How will the birth of this child give us hope?

Hope is a significant aspect of the Christian faith. The hope is indeed in things to happen and to change, but it is expressed as the hope in a person, in God himself. By putting hope in a person, we expect that person to bring about the change we hope for. Continue reading “Hope and fear”

Sweet spot

Over time, it has become increasingly clear to me that I am an introvert. More specifically, I identify most with the INTJ type, according to the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator. Knowing this has given me some helpful insights in who I am, how I think and how I best function.

One of the best books I have read about being an introvert is Quiet – The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking, by Susan Cain. She has also done a great TED talk on the topic.

As I am continuously searching for happiness and joy, one quote in Susan Cain’s book stood out to me. At the beginning of Chapter 5, she quotes Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi saying:

“Enjoyment appears at the boundary between boredom and anxiety, when the challenges are just balanced with the person’s capacity to act.” Quoted from Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience, p.52

Continue reading “Sweet spot”

Baby Blue

I recently discovered the wonderful music of Emilíana Torrini. Her sound and voice are similar to that of Björk, another great singer-songwriter from Iceland, but just a bit less ‘over the top’. If Björk was the music of my early twenties, than Torrini has taken that place in my late thirties. I enjoy all of her music and can listen to it for days on end. One song especially caught my attention. The lyrics are a bit difficult to understand, but that leaves plenty of room for anyone’s own interpretation. It talks about another in-between in which life happens: the space between pleasure and pain.

Between the pleasure and the pain
Wishing your life away
No more sinister than sane
Briefing your life away
Between the flicker and the flame
No one can explain
Baby blue is born again

{Baby Blue, from the album Love in the Time of Science}

Continue reading “Baby Blue”

Between the Altar and the Door

The tension between two worlds, two desires, two realities, is often well expressed in song. Take these lyrics from The Altar and the Door, a song by Casting Crowns:

Careless, I am reckless

I’m a wrong-way-travelin’-slowly-unraveling shell of a man

Burnt out, I’m so numb now

That the fire’s just an ember way down in the corner of my cold, cold heart

Lord, this time I’ll make it right, here at the altar I lay my life

Your kingdom come but my will was done, my heart is broken as I…

Cry, like so many times before

But my eyes are dry before I leave the floor, oh Lord

I try but this time, Jesus, how can I be sure I will not lose my follow through

Between the altar and the door

Continue reading “Between the Altar and the Door”

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