Everyone asks me what I’m enjoying most about our visit here in England, and aside from time with my children, I am enjoying exploring the unfamiliar. And I’m finding that I really like it here, and I am very excited about making some of the unfamiliar into the familiar.
Like pubs. The whole idea of a “public house” was unfamiliar to me and try as I might, I can’t think of anything in the US that I’ve experienced that is close to the atmosphere of a pub. A pub is not a bar or tavern as we think of pubs in the US; it is more of a gathering place, that has lots of small rooms with mismatched furniture and really good food. Try combining Starbucks with your favorite diner with your living room — no, that’s too big — and too new — and too sterile — and too American.
And pub food! For example: rarebit. I had my first taste last week at a local cafe called “The Chocolate Box” (OK, we didn’t have chocolate till after lunch, and that was phenomenal, too, I’m still thinking about the Oreo Truffle), but rarebit — lets just say “cheese heaven on Texas Toast”! Oh yes, let’s get very familiar with that. I want to become very familiar with as many pubs as possible.
I also tried a steak, mushroom, onion and gravy suet pie at “The Bull’s Head Pub”. Oh. My. Word. Well, except for the suet pie part, I couldn’t quite finish the pastry (I think it was pretty much suet and flour, and pretty doughy), but the filling. A M A Z I N G!!
There are always familiar foods on the menu, and I did order a cheeseburger the other day, but I think we can all agree that Americans do American food very well, so we’ll leave that to Americans.
This has also been a week of bringing the familiar into the Kid’s house. All of their belongings from the US arrived last Thursday — a full shipping crate! We have been quite busy unpacking and decorating and what was once an unfamiliar English house is now very much a home that looks and feels familiar.
Even the boys have tackled the unfamiliar in their own unique ways. From uniforms for school (which have quickly become the norm) to sandwiches. They both ordered jacket (baked) potatoes for lunch, and Jake asked for a ham sandwich the other day with butter instead of mayo or mustard, “I’m a British boy now!” He declared. And they ask for biscuits instead of cookies, and we are all enjoying crumpets for breakfast!
All that to say, I am not driving here! Yet. That remains unfamiliar to me. My son and daughter-in-law drive like they’ve lived here their entire lives, and they’ve only been sitting in the wrong side of the car for a few weeks! They didn’t have a choice — they live here — they had to make the unfamiliar very familiar and very quickly!
Seriously — look at the narrowness of these roads! Not to mention the distraction of the scenery!!
There is only one way to make the unfamiliar into the familiar and that is to bring it into our lives and experience it as part of our normal day-to-day living. It must saturate us, becoming a part of who we are – manifesting in the way we act and think.
It is no different with our faith. While some of us are Christians (or call ourselves Christians) living in our faith is like visiting a foreign country. It’s nice, but it is so unfamiliar and uncomfortable, that we quickly leave.
We know that we must pray, but we aren’t sure how, so we wait until we are in a crisis. But, we don’t know the words, or the posture, or even to whom we pray, so we hurriedly visit the unfamiliar territory and as soon as the crisis is manageable, we leave.
Some of us feel obligated to go to church occasionally, but again, we aren’t sure what we’re supposed to say, or wear, or where to sit, or why people are doing what they are doing, and so as soon as we can, we leave! Unfamiliar territory — get me out of here, now!
So how do we make the unfamiliar familiar? You commit to it. You saturate yourself in it. You stay.
“Taste and see that the Lord is good. Oh, the joys of those who take refuge in him!” Psalm 34:8 NLT
“I have loved you even as the Father has loved me. Remain in my love. When you obey my commandments, you remain in my love, just as I obey my Father’s commandments and remain in his love. I have told you these things so that you will be filled with my joy. Yes, your joy will overflow! John 15:9-11 NLT
With what are you saturating your mind, your heart, your emotions and your family? Are they things that will make your entry into heaven less traumatic?
Traumatic — yes, I think that is the correct word. For some of us, the move to heaven will be the hardest cultural shock fathomable. It will be completely foreign, because we have chosen not to live in our faith in this life; we are merely visitors, refusing to saturate ourselves in the things of God — it’s like driving on the wrong side of the road for me here in England.
And, for some of us, it will be a sweet transition. We will finally be able to bask in the majesty and glory of God, to worship him fully, and to love purely and unconditionally because we have learned to do that by living faithfully in this life.
What are you doing now to make your transition easier? Will you be moving from familiar to familiar? Or from unfamiliar to even more unfamiliar? What are you doing to help your children and the people you love to make the transition?
Will you commit this fall, this new study/school year, to visit and stick with a church or Bible study until you feel familiar with the things of God?