Emmanuel. God with us. He became flesh and dwelt among us. “The Word became flesh and blood and moved into the neighbourhood,” is Eugene Peterson’s paraphrase. I resonate so deeply with the words, ‘and moved into the neighbourhood.’ Isn’t that what each of us has done?
We’ve picked up our lives and settled into a neighborhood on another side of the world. For us, the streets of our adopted home look much more reminiscent of the streets that Jesus walked than the streets of our passport country. Mudbrick buildings, horse carriages, and donkey carts accompany the traffic. The roads are peppered with streetside vendors. By earthly standards, the city we call home is humble.
We have embraced this little-known corner of the world. There’s a frenetic energy in the hustle and bustle of our streets – so many interesting things to see, new sights and sounds to absorb, smiling faces and welcoming people as we go about our daily lives. Friendly curiosity follows us in a place where there are only a handful of foreign faces. There’s much to love about the warmth and generosity of the people we live among.
In this current season, though, I’ve struggled with how to navigate living here well. How do I embrace all that is different while honoring the unique way God designed me? Our neighborhood can feel small, robbing us of any semblance of privacy. With the curiosity comes scrutiny. Anonymity while running errands isn’t an option. Introversion doesn’t seem to exist in our host culture – so how do I explain my need for solitude?
When we first arrived, I was anxious to make local friends and integrate into society. Now that I’m knee deep, I struggle to feel confident in our boundaries. Needs are everywhere. Social expectations abound. “Where have you been? I haven’t seen you in a while.”
More often than not, I feel completely inadequate. Linguistically tongue-tied. My cross-cultural savvy still developing. Am I doing enough? Am I balancing home life and ministry well? Am I enough? Can I truly be myself?
As I settle into the Advent season, my heart returns time and again to this phrase, “He moved into the neighbourhood.” We moved into the neighbourhood to emulate Him. To shine His light. To reflect His love. We transplanted our lives to be tangible expressions of Emmanuel, God with us. I reflect on His life here on earth – He too was faced with insurmountable needs. He too was overwhelmed with social demands on His time. He too stole away for times of solitude.
As I sit under the weight of my self-criticism and self-doubt, He invites me to behold Him, one who is more than familiar with the humblest of surroundings, and remember that He is present here with me. He became flesh for those who surround me in this dark place, yes, but He also became flesh for me, to meet me where I am. His love shines on me too – it’s how I reflect His love to others.
As I sit in the glow of our festive tree, He invites my soul to bask in the glow of His unfathomable love.
Emmanuel, He is with me. He sustains me. He dwells in me.
Oh come, let us adore Him!
A wife. A mother. Word nerd. Coffee enthusiast. Simultaneously a world traveller and a homebody. Both an Adult TCK and International Worker. Rebecca has a heart for the nations and to see the global community thrive wherever God has planted them.