Respond to cultural differences with love

By Laurel Dispenza

How sweet it is to be at the point where I can spend a day with Costa Rican friends and their friends and have the ability to communicate and participate in the conversation and flow of life. Granted, there are still things I don’t understand, but how cool it is to think about how I’m speaking in a language that was once foreign to me.

Whether it’s a day in the mountains or hanging at a friend’s home, how sweet it is to be involved in what is the norm of relaxing here.

But there’s still an internal war that manifests itself externally. Be comfortable and stick with the other exchange students or step out and plunge into the unknown, making myself vulnerable, throwing off these familiar clothes of experience.

What sweet opportunity. To have so much time with people, so many of what I now recognize as opportunities to love. Yet how selfish I am with these. How I let intimidation and doubt steer me into the comfortable and safe lane, even though I swore I would never live there. I can use the excuse that I’m just driving for a time in security, but that’s not fair. Worldly security

is never what Jesus asked of me. How do I love? I’ve recently realized anew that I cannot love if I do not

know the love of God. We can only love because he first loved us, so my first desire is to know and live and walk in this Love.

But next, why do I love? I know I am insufficient in myself, and I’m so thankful for that, because the pressure was near suffocating me. But in a country where all the young people drink and smoke weed every day of the week, how do I respond with love and grace without judging or living in duplicity?

When they ask me what I think of smoking pot, how do I respond with honesty and grace without holding them to a standard in which they do not believe and have no reason to live up to? I can understand a lot, but my vocabulary and ability still leave something to be desired when it comes to expressing what I think and believe.

So surrounded by a new mentality, my grounding is tested and the deep internal quandaries are revealed. When worldviews clash, one must seek to find how the pieces can fit together in a way that still makes sense of the big picture. When faced with a different style of dress, a different use of language and vulgarity, a different norm for relationships and interactions, a different mentality toward beer and drugs, one must come face to face with what they believe and why. And one must press into Truth, seeking the most loving way to respond to all of this novelty.

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