Do you have any absolute, non-negotiables?
How do you cope under circumstances where it’s best if you stop talking out of a perspective of one “who knows” and start listening from a perspective whose absolutes truly simmer down to the person of Jesus Christ? Jesus Christ is an absolute, but that cannot disregard the opinion of a person who does not yet know the truth of Christ and therefore does not view Christ as an absolute. How do you decide what is negotiable and what is non-negotiable in your life? Think of an everyday occurrence that is non-negotiable and then place that occurrence in another culture. How about snow-cones in the summer heat? Ha!
Just a few examples of what I often mistakenly think are non-negotiables:
1. Non-negotiable- The parent/child relationship where kids are comfortable and familiar speaking directly to their parents, asking questions, and openly communicating. BUT, place this framework in a culture where kids are lowest in the social system, are NOT to make eye contact with adults, NOT to address men, including their fathers, and it becomes negotiable.
2. Non-negotiable- Eating 2-3 meals per day. BUT, place this framework in a culture where income and food are scarce and the bodies minimum requirements become negotiable.
3. Non-negotiable- Do NOT contract malaria. BUT, place this framework in a culture where malaria is present, and it is not sustainable to take malaria medication 100% of the time and malaria becomes negotiable…a disease that can be lived with for life if you have the necessary resources.
O.K….2 more please…
4. Non-negotiable- Cleanliness…keep a clean house and family. BUT, place this framework in a culture where cleanliness is viewed differently from one’s home culture (and consider nature’s elements having an affect) and your model of hygiene becomes negotiable.
5. Non-negotiable- Running water…You need running water for cooking, bathing, brushing your teeth, gardening, and other everyday things. BUT, place this framework in a culture where you do not have running water and your behavior adapts. Running water becomes negotiable.
My absolutes truly simmer down to the person of Jesus of Christ. This means, that in large part, I will relearn what I have learned from my home culture when I enter my new home among the Sakalava in Madagascar. Of course there will be similarities or commonalities between the cultures represented, but as I am going into a place that I cannot call “my own,” I will go as one who knows differently than my neighbor. How does one gain respect and trust from their neighbor? My answer is that by living, learning, walking alongside, and enduring time together, the bonds of trust will be established. In that trust, the person of Jesus Christ, my absolute non-negotiable, cannot be shaken.
If you are reading this and do not place your trust in the person of Jesus Christ, I challenge you to consider what is your absolute, non-negotiable that you embrace no matter where life takes you? I have a friend who recently told me their answer was “nothing,” and with that answer I suggested that the thought of “nothing” IS the absolute, non-negotiable. They later asked if they could have my copy of C.S. Lewis’s book, Mere Christianity.
In less than 2 months we will move to Nosy Be island and live and learn alongside the Sakalava people. If you know me, then you know how difficult it will be for me to stop talking and just listen. The idea goes against my normal mode of operation. I need God to help me set aside my North American frameworks or models and be open to learning things in a new way. For a child this comes more easily, but for a grown woman it must be intentionally practiced.
Maybe I will even learn to set aside my SPF 60 and try using traditional paints to protect my skin from the sun…Rebe