I wrote this post a little over three years ago, when we were on home leave from Central Asia, but the message is still relevant for today. The italicized words are my recent additions.
Most afternoons find me walking my neighborhood for at least thirty minutes. Sometimes I walk alone with my iPod. Other times my daughter joins me. Walking for me is not only a great form of exercise but a way to clear my thoughts. It is a freedom I do not have overseas where walking is just a form of transportation, and you have to be on high alert to your surroundings. The neighborhood where we are staying here in America is in the cultural section of town with streets filled with quaint, little houses with a front porches containing two chairs and a table in between. As W and I walk, we often observe the fairytale-like houses and wonder if we could live there or not. One day as W and I were meandering the neighbourhood, W commented on never noticing one of the houses and its cute yard even though we had walked past it many times. I then realized we had always walked on the other side of the street. By walking on this side, we had a whole new perspective of the houses and yards. It was like walking on a different yet still familiar street. We noticed things we had not seen before even though they were always there. The old became new.
Living overseas has been like that for us. We see things differently. We appreciate things more. We breathe more deeply and hold things more loosely. Hopefully it has made us slower to pass judgment and quicker to see things from someone else's point of view. It has made us more wary of technology and caused us to crave more face-to-face interaction. We see anew and struggle with the challenges of so many distractions and being able to choose wisely how to use our time.
On the other hand, being back on this side of the ocean has shown me how I needed time to rest, refresh, and regroup. Before we left Central Asia, I would have said I was in a good place. It had been a good summer of learning and resting after a long school year. After landing in America, I discovered maybe I wasn't as healthy as I thought I was. What I thought was thriving was more like surviving. Thankfully this past fall was full of time with God, time with friends, and time just soaking in the word with other believers. It was just what I needed.
Seeing things from the other side of the street works great in relationships. So often I only see things from my side. It is about what I want and what I need. When I take the time to step back and think about the other person's motives or what is going on in his or her life or when I look at him or her from the other side of the street, I am less likely to be judgmental. I am also less likely to get as frustrated. Instead I find myself extending more grace. I think that is why James encourages me to be slow to anger and quick to listen. When I am quick to anger and slow to listen, I am not able to see the situation clearly. I am not seeing things from the other side of the street.
Especially with teens, I am finding I need to step back more and react less. Seeing things from the other side of the street provides more perspective and less conflict. When I seek to listen to what my son has to say, I see he didn't mean the disrespect that I felt. As I talk with my students, I see what I saw as rebellion as a misunderstanding. Correction might still be needed, but the motive was not malicious.
More and more I feel the need to step to the other side of the street. One way for me to step to the other side of the street is through reading. As I read books about racial issues, refugees, and those struggling with suffering, I am able to have a glimpse of the other side of the street. I am grateful for those bloggers and online writers who seek truth and understanding over an agenda. I applaud those who put actions to their words stepping out in love to help the least of these.
Let us not forget that the Good Samaritan walked to the other side of the street. It cost him some of his time and money. But he gave life to someone in need that he didn't even know.
Let us not forget Jesus, our Savior, who walked from heaven to earth so he could be high priest that understood our temptations and weaknesses. He then walked back to heaven after making it possible for us to follow him someday.
As I sit and write, I am evaluating if I have been on this side of the street too long. Where in my life do I need to seek to understand? Where do I need to respond instead of react? Who is on the other side of the street that I need to help?
What about you? Where do you see God calling you to the other side of the street?