I push the grocery cart fast. Breezing through the aisles. Places to go, errands to run, lots of this and that on my mind. And out of the corner of my eye I see the yellow tray. It doesn’t register until after I push past the glass case.
I’m brought to a complete stop. And then I back up my cart and peer in.
A yellow tray holding rows of purplish, pinkish somethings. I read the sign, part Arabic, part English.
Whoa. I’ve never seen that before. Then again, probably 40% of the stuff in the store would fit in that category.
I love this little store. Persian music playing overhead, stacks of Iranian phone books outside, a hefty bunch of red leaf lettuce sells for .59, Arabic pita bread for .75, the produce is fresh and the prices unmatched. But what I love most is hearing the different languages, and seeing people from different cultures. A woman from a South American country picked up a bag of dried brown oval-shaped things and looked at me, “What do you think this is used for?” I read the bag, part Arabic, part English: Dried Lemons. “I really don’t know. But it looks interesting.”
Here in the aisles of this little grocery store I find packages of things unfamiliar. But for most of the patrons, these same packages and smells bring memories of home and comfort food.
And I think about the smell of the pantry in my parents house and it’s the same as the aisles of the Asian markets I visit. These markets have huge tanks of live fish in the back of the store, and duck tongues and chicken feet in styrofoam trays and plastic wrap, placed right next to the drum sticks and chicken thighs.
I grew up eating roasted watermelon seed, the cheek meat of fish, sea cucumber, and not only the sweet meat of the blue crab but also the green pasty eggs of the female crabs. These were delicacies we enjoyed on special occasions.
And I wonder if lamb tongues would hold the same place of honor in a meal shared by a Middle Eastern family.
Like snails and frog legs in France, or sheep brain in Central Asia. Raw fish in Japan.
I marvel at the variety of food, and languages and cultures and it comes to me all over again: God is not an American.
Sometimes I forget this fact and think that God only hears prayers in English or that it’s the original Hebrew and Greek and then the English translation of the Bible. I read my Bible with American lenses, but the details that stand out to me as I read are often from a woman’s perspective. And I wonder how the same passages would be understood by the people in cultures different from me or from a different time period. Or how their lenses would help me understand more richly and deeply the Word of God.
Darrin and I teach from the Bible in different contexts–Bible studies, retreats, conferences, Sunday school classes, etc. and I can tend to come across kind of dogmatic and black and white. But I have come to appreciate and respect Darrin’s humble posture. He says, “The Bible has been around for thousands of years, translated, studied and taught by godly people through the ages. Who am I to say so emphatically what a particular passage says or means?” I don’t think this means that we have a wishy-washy approach to Scripture, but I am challenged to continue to grow and evaluate how I read the Bible in light of culture and context.
I love how God displays His beauty and creativeness through different languages and peoples. And as His image bearers, we reflect who God is through who we are and how we live. I think that it is through bringing together all nations, ethnic groups and tongues that we are able to see Him reflected fully.
What an amazing God and what an amazing, diverse, wonderful and tasty world we live in.