52 years. A lifetime and yet, in some ways, no time at all. That was the feeling I had recently in Copenhagen, when I was fortunate to have a reunion with the Danish exchange student who lived with me during my senior year in high school. Over those 52 years our contact had waxed and waned, circumstances and good intentions holding their sway over our lives. We had tried before to get together, but it just wasn’t to be. So, college, marriage, children, jobs, etc., unfolded for us both. Many memories of our year as “sisters” remained strong, while many of the incidental, daily occurrences of our senior year eventually faded. However, her presence in my life during that important year had left its mark and for that opportunity, I have always been grateful.
So you can imagine that I was excited and nervous as Ron and I sat in our hotel lobby and waited for Gitte and her husband to arrive! I constantly checked everyone who entered the door, disappointed each time it wasn’t her. Then, there she was, walking quickly with a big grin on her face. I jumped up and we hugged each other, stopping and starting again, for probably a full minute. We both struggled to even say anything coherent, so caught up in the sweetness of the moment. From that time until we parted ways hours later, we were constantly reminded of little things from our year together. We talked about anything and everything. Being together was, once more, so very easy, comfortable and natural. I told her how much I always admired her courage to have left her home at 16 and traveled across the world, to live with strangers for a year! She had walked away from what was known and comfortable, to exist in another culture, with another language, social norms, etc. Of course, there were regulations, expectations and guidelines, thoroughly outlined for exchange students. She had prepared herself, as had we, but I firmly believe that she made that year a success because she faced it all with genuineness and wonder and fearlessness.
Genuineness, Wonder, and Fearlessness
I can’t help but think that maybe the way Gitte approached her year in Jackson, Tennessee, is much the same way that God calls us to live in His world, with genuineness, wonder and fearlessness. We are told to live with honesty and sincerity, not focusing on ourselves but on others, seeking ways to help, to show love and to understand each other, wherever we may be. Knowing that we will learn by truly seeing others and by truly being seen can provide us with the deep satisfaction of genuine relationships. God knew how desperately we would need each other’s thoughts, ideas, love, compassion, presence, laughter and tears. We were made to be in relationship with each other, but that can’t happen if we close ourselves off to others wearing “masks” to appear other than we are. In Titus 2: 7-8, the Bible says, “Show yourself in all respects to be a model of good works, and in your teaching show integrity, dignity and sound speech that cannot be condemned, so that an opponent may be put to shame, having nothing evil to say about us. “ We must be genuine!
In wonder, we can be curious and interested in everything around us, loving and appreciating the beauty and provisions of this planet that is our home. Matthew 18:3 says, “Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” Having a child-like sense of awe can afford us the vision of seeing into life around us, ready to take on each new day, ever hopeful that we can be loving and positive examples of lives touched by God’s grace. Having the faith of a child in possibility is important in our daily walk.
We can be fearless because we know that we possess God’s love and strength. He calls us to follow him with brave and loving hearts knowing that we are his children. No matter what happens in life, He will be with us. In Hebrews 13: 5-6 we read, “For He Himself has said, ‘ I will never leave you nor forsake you.’” So we may boldly say, “The Lord is my helper; I will not fear. What can man do to me?” God calls us to the ultimate adventure: life. He equips us for it but also expects us to show up, ready and prepared, with openness, wonder and fearlessness.