Wednesday, January 29, 2014

On Internationalism

Lately, I've been deeply reflecting on how my life has radically changed over the past 8 months living in Europe.  I'm absolutely speechless at all the beauty that God has blessed me to live through. I'd especially like to elaborate on the issue of internationalism.  I can't even begin to STRESS HOW IMPORTANT this is. If you EVER have the chance to travel to another country and experience a different culture don't even question it JUST GO. I REPEAT JUST GO. From my personal experience, those moments of the life have been the greatest times I've ever gone through.  Tonight, as I was chatting with one of my dear friends, we started comparing the countries that we have had the chance to live through throughout our lives and how that really changed us. We consider ourselves to be the ones who see through TWO lenses instead of one. I think the "two lens" perspective is crucial and absolutely necessary in today's society. I feel so blessed to have grown up in a two culture world. Lithuanian and American. I simply want to be honest with you. The whole saying "The grass is greener on the other side"......isn't true. Each culture has it's advantages and disadvantages. It's like a  delicious disease that spreads in one aspect. (poetical metaphor intended) It seems to me that Europeans have this vision of the "American Dream" while Americans have this vision of the "European Dream" or something of the equivalent in another country. Just like people who have straight hair want curly hair and people who have curly hair want straight hair. From my observations of simply living life with people from many cultures all over the world, we're all the same when it comes to this. Curiosity is natural human instinct. It's the worm inside our stomachs that's eating us alive, the fire that's raging within us that until we quench it or "kill the curiosity"  and "make it to the other "greener" side, that burning desire will always seemingly be inside our hearts and souls. So to put it plainly...GO KILL YOUR CURIOSITY. LIVE IN THE CULTURE THAT IS ON YOUR HEART.

The transformations in my life are clearly evident and some are still developing. I'm definitely not the same person I was a year ago. Some things always stay the same, but others change. Living in Lithuania, I've learned to be a more forgiving person. For example,some people I used to be really mad at  in the United States, seeing the other side, I'm reminded that we are all human and that there are clearly cultural boundaries that make us who we are and act a certain way. I mean let's really think about this concept: People are who they are for a reason. It's not by accident. The culture and experiences of their lives has made them who they are today. The results of that is definitely a wide spectrum, but it either can leave one NARROW minded or OPEN minded.

People who choose not to open their hearts to another culture, are truly missing out on life.

It breaks my heart to see someone who is so consumed by THEIR culture that they forget how BIG the world truly is and how SMALL in reality they actually are. One observation I've noticed in Europe is how overly nationalistic society sometimes seems. You must hold on to your identity as if you were faced with your head at the guillotine, you'd rather have your head chopped off than disown your national identity. I suppose that's one major difference between Europe and the United States. Sometimes I admire this aspect of that culture, but other times it sickens me, because with over nationalism comes PRIDE. People become so PROUD about their culture that they are not accepting to "Outsiders". I can't even begin to tell you how many times I've been offended by people and even wanted to punch them in the face because I have the 2 lens perspective and they only have 1. Judgements at times can be overwhelming and break the heart and shatter and scar the soul, but this opens the door of opportunity to pray for them, that their eyes would be opened to a new perspective that could forever change their life.  I am who God says I am and I am NOT defined by what a person says I am. Call me a Lithuanian, an American, a Russian, a crazy over colorful whatever, those labels sometime really cut deep, and people have no idea. They assume you're one way, and out of deep respect etiquette you choose to be silent and forgive them, because they do not know the words they say and how that affects someone.  I'm by no means perfect, but I do my best to choose my words carefully on the issues of nationalism especially, because from having to balance 2 cultures from the day I was born, I know how deep those words can cut through the heart like a double edged knife. It's painful.

So now.....

I see through the lens of forgiveness,
the lens of offering grace to others when they least deserve it,
the lens of loving others for who God created them to be and not judging them,
the lens of realizing that culture and experience shape a person into who they are,
the lens of analyzing a situation from a global perspective,
the lens of embracing who you are even when others around you are different from you,
the lens of believing in your dreams, even though they may seem impossible, at the end of the day, it's the only thing that will keep your soul alive.

So my dearest friend, TRAVEL. Hop on that plane TOMORROW. and don't look back.....and I pray that you enjoy the greatest cultural adventure of your life!

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