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“You Are Like a Big Baby”

07.31.19
in Blog, Immigrant and Refugee Ministry, West Asia
Thoughts from a newly arrived mission worker in West Asia.

I moved to West Asia less than a year ago. I was wide-eyed and expectant, ready to make a difference. But it didn’t take long for my expectations to be dashed on the craggy rocks of ignorance. 

On a cold spring day, my teammate and I sat across from our language teacher, Omar, asking questions about a recent interaction we’d had with a local friend.

As we recounted the interaction, Omar could immediately see where we had misstepped. 

We all laughed over our mistakes and then I groaned, “Oh, we have so much to learn!”

He nodded and encapsulated the entire experience of moving into a new culture in one simple phrase: “You are like a big baby here.”

And he’s right. Things that didn’t require any thought when I lived in America now take massive amounts of time and energy:

  • communicating the simplest of ideas
  • greeting people
  • deciding how close to stand in a conversation with someone
  • knowing which foods to eat and not to eat

All these things now take time to observe, ask questions, listen, and make mistakes. Any influence or proficiency I had easily operated in before is gone. I am almost entirely dependent on the people around me. They are the grown-ups; I am the baby. I must learn what life is like in their world and rebuild from the basics.

I know this, but I don’t like it. It’s humiliating, disorienting, and incredibly inefficient. I came to give, after all! I thought I would be the helper, not the helped!

Then I remember how Jesus came to earth. In His infinite creativity, He could have planned His rescue operation any way He wanted. But He chose to come as a baby. He chose to be dependent on His creation. He chose to lay aside His influence and proficiency. He chose to leave His respected place in heaven and make Himself nothing. 

Even now, as I keenly feel the discomfort of moving cross-culturally, I am moved to awe that the God of heaven would step down to earth — into a world groaning with brokenness and evil — and learn to live among us. What a vast difference, what an aching divide He must have felt!

Remembering His example causes me to lay aside my own ego and embrace humility. It helps me strive to be genuinely curious rather than frustrated. It reminds me that He sees me here and is patiently working in my heart, completely unbothered by the “inefficiency” of the process. But mostly, it moves me to worship.

Next time someone calls me a big baby, I’ll smile and know I’m on the right track.

Lindsay lives and works among refugees in West Asia.

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