I have feared that no matter how much time we spend in this country, how fluent I become in the language, or how comfortable I become with my surroundings, that I will always be viewed as the foreigner and never truly be “in” and considered a friend to any person outside of the expat community.
I’ll never speak like a native. I’ll never have dark skin. I’ll never look good in traditional dress. I won’t get the inside jokes or know the little songs and stories that children grow up with. Culturally, I am coming from a totally different planet. No matter how much I adapt and adjust, I will never truly belong.
I desire and ask God for a close friend of national ethnicity. I know that I can learn and grow so much in this context if I develop deep and meaningful friendships in the midst of the enigma that is culture and language adaptation.
But will this person ever look at me in the same way I look at them? Will I be their friend…or just a foreigner with new and fun things with which to introduce them…just the person who tries really hard but will never really get where they are coming from?
Can I find common ground with someone whose life resembles mine in so few ways? Is it possible to bridge the gaps between our worlds and create an atmosphere where a budding relationship can thrive?
For this reason, I love what the Word says about friendship.
- are friendly (Prov. 18:24)
- love at all times (Prov. 17:17)
- comfort and edify (1 Thess. 5:11)
- encourage to love and live better (Heb. 10:24-25)
- live selflessly and sacrificially (John 15:13)
So we don’t have to have the same skin tone and cultural background? Phew! That’s relief! I don’t have to get all their jokes? Well that makes sense because, well, let’s be honest, I don’t always get my husband’s.
And the biggest-and maybe the hardest- thing I am learning is that I can be a friend without being a friend. Someone doesn’t have to welcome me into their inner circle for me to be friendly and to love, comfort, edify and encourage them. I can live selflessly and sacrificially to their benefit without them inviting me into the intimate parts of their life.
Before moving across the world, I had never really felt as though I had to try to make friends because I could always find someone like me, who appreciated me and understood where I was coming from amid the plethora of potential pals I had to choose from.
That will never be my reality here. But that doesn’t mean that the months and years of sowing seeds of friendship won’t eventually pay off. And I hope that when they do, I will have everlasting fruit in the form of new sisters in Christ for the time and heart invested.
It’s certainly not an easy or rewarding task investing in people who don’t want much to do with you or only want what they can get from you…which is basically the reason I don’t like Twitter, but that’s besides the point…really.
So I’ll never be a Nepali… but I can be a friend to many, and maybe a few will be my friends too!
Endeavor with me to reach out and be a friend today whether you share culture and common interests or not and whether the other party seems particularly interested in returning the favor of friendship. May those we meet see Christ in our extended hand with no strings attached!