Last week I received approval the have the 2 year conditional status of my residency removed. This is because I received my immigrant status through marriage, and had been married less than two years when my residency started. As part of the application process to remove the conditions to my residency we had to prove that we still had a genuine marriage. I think our son's birth certificate said it all.
I was surprised that my application was processed so quickly. Removal of Conditions applications are one of the lowest priorities for processing. Many people wait over a year to have their conditions removed. After our initial immigration application (while having to live in different countries) took a year to complete with high priority (only below naturalisation and dependent children under 21) I was expecting the removal of my conditions to take at least as long. Instead it took less than four months from posting our application to receiving my green card, which arrived in the mail today.
I am now officially a immigrant resident, otherwise known as a legal alien resident. The surprising good news about my immigrant status has caused me to pause and reflect about what it means to be an alien in a foreign land. As a christian I am an alien in this world, just passing through on my way to eternity. As a foreigner and alien in the land in which I live there are plenty of areas in my life that show my alien status.
My darling husband gets great amounts of amusement out of one of the most obvious differences. Although we appear to speak the same language (English) in truth neither of us speak proper English. My beloved speaks American English (along with everyone around me) and I speak mostly Scots, with some British English thrown in for good measure. I use words like creche instead of nursery (which to native ears sounds like crash) and car park instead of parking lot. One of my friends loves how I use the word post instead of mail. Rob can always tell when I'm talking to my family on the telephone because then I use Scots words instead of English ones.
But it isn't just the words that make the difference. Its the figures of speech, the songs I sing to Aiden and the small unimportant traditions I bring with me that for me are second nature, but for those around me are strange and meaningless. Who knew there is an actual difference between porridge and oatmeal. I found out the first time I served porridge to Rob. He didn't know Thomas is a Tank Engine and not just a Train. The Mr Men, Roald Dahl, The Famous Five, Ali Bali, Wee Willie Winkie and Bagpuss never had a part of Rob's childhood. My frames of reference for raising our son are so different to Rob's.
These differences are also a reflection of how as a believer my frames of reference should be different to the world. As a foreigner I get to choose how much I immerse myself in this new land. Do I blindly and completely immerse myself in everything? Do I cling to the ways of the old country no matter what? Or do I choose carefully and wisely what I keep and what I adopt from the new? There has to be some adaption, especially in my language, otherwise I would never be understood by those around me.
I have to live in this world, but how much it changes me is my choice. It isn't easy being a foreigner and always being a little bit different from everyone around me. Neither is it always easy being a christian in a world that no longer accepts absolutes. I want to be relevant to those around me, to be understandable, that I may share the good news of the gospel with them, and by example lead them towards the Lord. Yet I don't want to be so alike that they don't see any point or need to change and seek after God.
Just as I want to find a balance between the Scot and the American I also want to find the balance between the world and holiness. Are either of these going to be easy? I don't expect so. Will it be worth the extra effort? Most definitely yes.
I am a foreigner in a foreign land, it is only by the grace of God I navigate my way through.
The aged women likewise, that they be in behaviour as becometh holiness, not false accusers, not given to much wine, teachers of good things; that they may teach the young women to be sober, to love their husbands, to love their children, to be discreet, chaste, keepers at home, good, obedient to their own husbands, that the word of God be not blasphemed.