On Sunday afternoon, I arrived back to Dallas seriously needing a hair cut, averaging 3-4 cups of coffee a day, thinking Dallas was suddenly a small city, and desiring to stay in the same time zone for a while! I'm looking forward to getting some much needed rest and talking with friends and family before the school year hits.
As usual, I’ve struggled to figure out what to write about! Where do I start? It has been one incredible trip- full of unbelievable sights, incredible people, beautiful cultures, and an overwhelming thankfulness for people like YOU who have helped to make this trip possible. While I know I probably won’t see the effect this trip has had on me for years to come, I did want to take a short moment to share one thing that has really stuck out to me the last couple of weeks. Due partly to my hangover of over 2 continual weeks of jet lag, it may not be the most well-thought blog, but it may be one of the most honest! :)
(And for those of you that are wondering, I am planning on continuing this blog past this post! So.. if you so feel inclined, please continue to check it out!)
During the past 6 weeks, I’ve been immersed in different cultural extremes: the laid-back, relationship driven Europe, the mysterious (at least to me) Arab culture, and the ever polite and friendly Asian culture. One thing that has amazed me is to see how much a person’s culture effects the way they behave, dress, think, and most importantly to me, believe. For example, the majority of the Montenegrins are Orthodox, most of Qatar is Islamic, Thailand is mostly Buddhist, and Hong Kong is a combination of Buddhist and Taoist. During much of the summer, I was in areas where the Christian population was under .01%. That's one in 10,000 for those that didn't pass 7th grade math. :)
One of the most challenging and refreshing processes I have gone through this summer has been thinking about whether I believe Jesus to be the “way, the truth, and the life” because I grew up in the buckle of the bible belt or because I truly believe He is the ONLY WAY to eternal life. Is it prideful and/or close-minded of me to think that my religion is "right" and everyone else’s is wrong? How can I be sure? Is Christianity the same as all the other religions?
Here's a pop quiz: What is the one thing that distinguishes the Christian faith from all other religions in the world? Well, besides the fabulously trendy t-shirts. The answer is GRACE. Every other major religion in the world (stop me if I'm wrong) tells us that in order to get to heaven or a better afterlife, we are to follow a set of rules and/or be a good person. The bible tells us that we are saved through the gift of God, and all we are to do to inherit eternal life is to accept that gift (Eph 2:8). It isn't based on us going to church, reading our bible, staying away from R rated movies, never dropping the F bomb, and refraining from spaghetti strapped shirts (gasp!). Its all about accepting the fact that we can't do it on our own, and believing in the ONE who can give eternal life.
While I know this may shock some of you (okay, not really), I don't have all the answers to life's difficult questions. Heck, I don't even have answers to life's most basic questions. (My ACT scores will prove this.) But one thing I do know is that there is no way that I could ever EARN my way to heaven. If heaven is a perfect paradise inhabited by a perfect and holy God, how wrong would it be to think that I, a person who sins daily, could come into that place on my own? That would be like me dousing myself with liquid food coloring for 25 years, jumping into a clear pool, and expecting the food coloring not to spread. There would have to be something that would be able to make me completely clean to not contaminate the cleanliness of the pool. That is what the gospel is all about- Christ's blood cleansing us in order that we may enter into the kingdom of God. (Not to make this sound like a southern baptist sermon, but if anyone has any questions about any of this, I would love to chat with you.)
Let's be honest here- this is not what I was planning on writing a blog about. Shouldn't I have something more "profound" to say after a trip around the world? But really, what is more profound than the simple truth of the gospel? I thank the Lord for showing me first hand the uniqueness of the gospel. I also thank him for showing me how it can not be held back by cultural, language, and geographical borders. But that's a whole other blog in itself. :)
As I mentioned before, I do plan on continuing this blog for a while, and hope to post more thoughts from the trip once I have some time to reflect more on it. Thanks for checking in once again. Enjoy your last few weeks of summer!
Till next time...